By the time he reached his mid-forties, Isaac King had stacked up an impressive list of career accomplishments. He was a wardrobe stylist that had worked for celebrities and models starring in movies, commercials, and magazines. However, despite his success, Isaac always felt there was something missing—his high school diploma.

“I always felt disappointed in myself,” Isaac said about having dropped out of high school. “As successful as I was in getting to a professional level in my career, I still felt like I had broken a promise to myself. It was always nagging me.”

Around the same time, he started thinking about a career change, too.

“When I wasn’t passionate about my career anymore, I started thinking, ‘Okay, you’re not too old. What does the next step in your education look like?’ So, I got my GED,” he said.

Isaac knew he wanted to continue his education so he could find a career where he was of service to people, so he enrolled in pre-requisite classes at Malcolm X College. He was excited to embark on his college journey when he was given the news that he had cancer. Isaac was forced to drop his classes to undergo surgery, but he wasn’t ready to give up on his college dreams. His surgery took place in February, and he started summer classes that June.

“I wanted to get the surgery done and get healthy so I could go to school,” he said. “I was so focused.”

Isaac’s first class was a mathematics course, which inspired him to get into Malcolm X’s radiology program. However, in the midst of his radiology courses and clinicals, Isaac was the victim of a hate crime. The dangerous attack took a toll on him both physically and mentally, and he decided to take a gap year from school.

During that year, he decided he wanted to switch programs so he could be of service to people in a different way. He re-enrolled in courses—this time at Kennedy-King College, which was closer to his home in Bronzeville—and met advisor Patricia Ramos.

“I got Patricia as my advisor, and the rest is history. She really turned things around for me,” Isaac said. “I told her I want to be a champion for people who feel they don’t have a voice, and she started connecting me with four-year schools with social work programs.”

Isaac earned his associate degree from City Colleges this fall and plans to transfer to National Louis University in the spring to pursue his bachelor’s degree in social work. He’s currently getting real-world experience in the field as a mentor for New Community Outreach, a non-profit organization that creates safe, restorative spaces for young people in Bronzeville. The experience has informed Isaac’s career path, as he’s starting to lean towards a career in the non-profit sector.

“Even though I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to do, I know I’ve chosen the right path.”