Khari Dawson, 17, received approximately $700,000 in college scholarship offers. The previously homeschooled high school student from Prince George’s County was dual- enrolled in a program at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). Khari also graduated with an Associates degree in the humanities and social sci- ences with a creative writing concentration from the community college. She will attend the University of San Francisco in the fall. Courtesy photo

The pandemic presented an unprecedented time in education for educators and students who juggled virtual learning amid isolation, but some seniors who persevered did not miss a beat despite the threat of learning gaps and challenges.

Not only did 17-year-old Khari Dawson receive approximately $700,000 in college scholarship offers, but she also graduated with an associate degree in the humanities and social sciences with a creative writing concentration from the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). Khari’s academic journey will continue in California.

She opted to attend the University of San Francisco in the fall, where she accepted a full scholarship opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Additionally, she plans to minor in Film.

“I’m really happy to have finished college, and to have a degree already,” Khari said. “And to have fulfilled some of my requirements for the four-year (university) that I’m going into already. That’s pretty exciting.”

Khari was homeschooled during her high school years because she wanted to be, not because of pandemic-related circumstances. The Prince George’s County-based scholar said that she had been homeschooled on and off over the period of her entire life.

Her perceptive mother— Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman, Ed.D— is the co-founder of Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars (BFHES). The purpose of the community-based education research group is to help Black homeschooling families and allow them to interact with each other.

Ali-Coleman is a media professional and multi-disciplinary artist who also earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) from Morgan State University. Her dissertation study dovetails with her daughter’s real-life journey.

It was titled, “Dual Enrolled African American Homeschooled Students’ Perceptions of Preparedness for Community College.” Ali-Coleman’s daughter said that her mother ensured that she uncovered herpassions and learning interests, although she adhered to learning traditional subjects such as Social Studies and English, which is the true essence of homeschooling.

Khari began taking college classes during her freshman year of high school. Her mother allowed her to embrace learning in exciting ways.

“It’s so interesting, because if we have been indoctrinated to look at learning in this linear kind of way, and there are certain ages and certain ways that children do this or do that…that’s just so unnatural. That’s not how learning happens,” Ali-Coleman said.

Khari’s mother noted how creative her daughter was early in her life. It led Ali- Coleman to try the homeschooling route. Ali-Coleman also said that she did her best not to replicate a traditional classroom setting. She utilized her background as an instructor to embrace other teaching strategies that are even used in costly private schools with less “restrictive environments.”

Taking trips, going to plays and museums, watching films and participating in creating a short film, were some of the components Ali-Coleman integrated to help her daughter thrive, when the pandemic did not interfere.

“I enjoyed being kind of the leader of my own education,” Khari said. “I became an English major and joined the honors college and also this honors sorority called Phi Beta Kappa. Through those I was able to take honors classes and I had access to smaller class sizes and things of that nature.”

Additionally, Ali-Coleman explained that Khari applied to the Black Scholars Program at the University of San Francisco which focuses on social justice. Taking classes in African American studies and culture is required. Ali-Coleman spoke of the respect that Khari has learned to give and receive as a human while exploring what she wants in the world. Khari, who has already had some exposure to filmmaking hands-on is interested in creating films where the lens of how Black people see themselves is broadened.

There is more to Blackness than struggle and disenfranchisement. Ali-Coleman said that she is proud to know that her daughter cares about issues such as mental health.

“I think the thing that is making me most proud is seeing all the things that she’s accomplished on her own, and it is really just a testimony to this whole homeschool pathway as being one where it really supports the children having the agency and autonomy.”

The second annual BFHES virtual teach-in which was conceived by Ali- Coleman and Dr. Cheryl Fields Smith—who is a frequently cited researcher of Black homeschooling families— integrates policy and research that benefits Black homeschooling parents will be held July 19-23, 2021.

Please visit blackfamilyhomeschool.org to obtain more information about the event.

Khari Dawson

Khari Dawson, middle, participated in the University of Maryland’s Young Terps program. She earned three college credits during the 7-week program. Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman, Ed.D., left, is Khari’s mother. Ben Dawson, right, is the scholar’s father. Courtesy Photo