“I realize I have so much hidden potential! I believe I can figure out how to change the world.”
While born in Boston, Jonah Taylor-Bohannon, age 19 from Dorchester, spent the first few years of his life living in Virginia as his mom finished college. “She had me when she was 16,” Jonah says, “but she really wanted to graduate from high school and college. Even when the road wasn’t easy and we were bouncing from house to house, she really tried hard to put both of us on the path to a better life.” While their search for a better life temporarily led to Jonah being raised by his grandparents in Boston, his mother’s example has always powerful for him.
At the end of middle school, Jonah and his mother, searching for good schools that would provide the necessary support for Jonah’s learning disability, decided to enter Jonah in the lottery for Boston Collegiate Charter School. Reflecting on his time at Boston Collegiate, Jonah recalls, “Things were going okay until 11th grade, when stuff got tough for me outside of school and I started failing. In March, I learned there was no way I could pass for the year, so I just spent all day sitting in class. I knew I would have to repeat so there was no reason to try.”
He soon learned about Phoenix from one of his cousins, who had graduated from the school the previous spring, and decided to transfer. He says, “The craziest thing happened – I really started to enjoy it. I really liked the people I met here. The teachers would call me when I wasn’t in school, and I felt like I could finally connect with my classmates.” He also notes how much Phoenix has improved his confidence, “I realize I have so much hidden potential! I now know that I can analyze how the world works, and can ask tough questions that need to be asked and answered. I believe I can figure out how to change the world.”
Reflecting further on how Phoenix has changed him, Jonah quotes David Foster Wallace, one of his favorite authors. He says, “You have to learn how to break free from your default setting, but you also need to learn when to analyze and push boundaries and stay out of trouble.” He smiles as he says that’s been an important life lesson for him: “That’s the hardest part – learning you can’t always pick a fight. Sometimes you have to let things go. Not everything needs to be a battle.”
Next year, Jonah will be dedicating a year of service to City Year. He’s excited to the opportunity, and hopes City Year will help him figure out what he wants to do long-term.