It’s likely that everyone who has ever met Mikal Goodman can immediately tell he’s destined for great things. The way he speaks and his mannerisms mirror that of an adult who has experienced a great deal in life, not that of a 17 year old who hasn’t yet graduated from high school.
The list of plans he has for his future immediately upon graduation this spring overshadows what many would hope to accomplish in a lifetime.
And, even better, he’s well on his way to achieving those goals.
Goodman, a senior at Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac and a second year Computer Networking student at Oakland Schools Technical Campus – Northeast (OSTC-NE), has recently learned he is one of 60 Career and Technical Education (CTE) students in the nation selected as a semifinalist in the CTE division of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.
Established in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program recognizes some of the nation’s most distinguished high school seniors. In 2015, the program, which already had general and arts components, added a CTE division created specifically to honor those who demonstrate “ability and accomplishment” in CTE fields.
When Keith Teller, Computer Networking instructor at OSTC-NE, learned about the program, his first thought was to nominate Goodman, who he describes as having many skills. He said not only is Goodman good with technology, he often teases Goodman that he is his “most sociable nerd,” meaning Goodman is able to communicate extremely well in a field typically filled with individuals who prefer to work quietly at a computer.
“He’s got an amazing ability to focus. His writing skills are far beyond his years and he is very goal oriented in terms of knowing what he wants to do and what he wants to get out of life,” explained Teller.
Goodman said he picked the Computer Networking program because he enjoys learning about subjects such as repairing and troubleshooting computers, networking computers and computer security.
“From a young age, I’ve really been into technology,” he said. “When I got the opportunity to come to OSTC from my home school … I jumped at the chance.”
Goodman is now certified in A+ and is working to become certified in Network+, something he thinks he will complete in the next few weeks.
“I’m gaining skills here that I can use to get a decent paying job right out of high school and it’s setting me up to transition to the workplace out of high school,” he said.
But when asked how he plans to use his time at OSTC for his future career, Goodman chuckles, stating he has other ambitions than becoming a technology guru.
“The funniest part about this is … although I’m very into technology, I’m going to college for communications and political science,” he said.
Why? Probably a combination of his upbringing and social skills. Goodman’s parents were in high school when he was born, something he said has affected his entire life.
“It’s children having children,” Goodman explained. “At that age, you are not mature and capable of fully taking care of a child to the best extent.”
Goodman did not live with his parents during his childhood; instead, his great-grandmother was his main caregiver. He said he grew up in some not-so-nice areas in Pontiac.
“From a young age, that stable family life was not there,” he said. “That was always something that affected my life.”
Goodman’s great-grandmother watched over him until he was in eighth grade when she both suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. And guess who then became her caretaker?
“In eighth grade, I used to sometimes miss two or three days of school a week to sit with her and take care of her,” he said. “I was balancing her and school and trying to keep the best grades I could. That was difficult. I was mainly a loner.”
His great-grandmother, who recently suffered another stroke, is still alive and in a nursing home in Pontiac, but due to continuing family issues, Goodman has not seen her recently.
But all of his trials have not stopped Goodman from succeeding.
Goodman is valedictorian at his home school. He currently has two jobs – one at a suit store and another at a coffee shop – in addition to attending class at both his home school and OSTC-NE. He said he’s also considering doing an internship through OSTC-NE and, he has another gig he does on the side, writing for Affinity Magazine, dubbed as a publication for teens by teens that focuses on sometimes controversial issues such as politics, race and mental health.
“Usually if I’m not at school, I’m at work or I’m at home playing guitar. It’s the only thing I do in my free time,” he said.
The writing for Affinity Magazine is another outlet Goodman uses to flex his political muscles. He said his most-read article on the site has had over 300,000 views.
“I’ve kind of always had this interest in politics. My great-grandma said I wanted to vote when I was four,” he explained, adding he plans to move to Dallas, Texas, a big city he hopes offers a lot of opportunity. “These past couple of years, the presidential cycle really strengthened the fact that I want to be in politics. I want to work with people.”
But, for now, he’s content being a semifinalist in the U.S. Presidential Scholarship Program, which is simply a recognition; winners do not receive any funds. In April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars will make the final selection of up to 20 winners.
“It definitely feels good to get nominated. It feels like all of my hard work is not just going to waste, per se,” said Goodman. “It makes me feel like I’ve chosen the right path to apply myself, pushing forward. “
Teller is excited to see what the future holds for Goodman.
“He’s come from some personal struggles and he is very determined to break the chain and the cycle he’s come from and I think there’s no doubt he’s going to be a tremendous success,” he said.
Check out this video of Mikal Goodman talking a little bit more about the opportunities afforded to him through attending OSTC-NE:
Sarah Davis is a communications specialist with Oakland Schools. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.