Micah Baker is starting her freshman year at Howard University a lot differently than she thought she would.
Micah expected to be at Howard’s Hilltop campus in Washington, D.C., by now. Instead, the Cluster Tutoring graduate is learning this semester the same way as many other students across the country — all of the material is being taught remotely.
“I hope by January we can be at school,” she said. “It’s wait-and-see.”
Micah graduated in May from Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park. Just like high school graduations all over the country, hers was online. “We had a prerecorded graduation ceremony,” she said.
Now, she wants to study political science at Howard. While she hasn’t declared a major, she’s aiming for a pre-law track.
Micah has attended Cluster since kindergarten, working with three different tutors over the years. When she started high school, she gained a veteran tutor in Nell Lurain, who had tutored Micah’s brother, William, for eight years before that. When William graduated, Nell switched siblings.
“After he graduated,” Micah said, “Nell took me under her wing.” William is due to graduate in December from Tuskegee University in Alabama, having studied for one semester in Barcelona, Spain.
Nell called both William and Micah excellent students and said both were “very organized and a pleasure to work with.” She said William and Micah get along well, so they always talk a lot, and William helped Micah in her studies.
“They were cut out of the same block,” with lots of support at home from their mother, so that’s why they did so well, Nell said. “Micah liked tutoring. She didn’t want to play games.
“Mainly, I just guided her,” added Nell, who has tutored for a dozen years and also serves on the Cluster Tutoring Board. “She needed some help with math, and a computer coding course gave her some trouble. But she always came totally prepared to work.”
Micah credits tutoring in general and Nell specifically for much of her success. “Cluster definitely helped me as a student,” Micah said. “It gave me space to focus on my work. At home, sometimes it’s distracting.
“Not only did I meet people, but I used a lot of their resources, like the computers to type out my essays.”
Micah said Nell always went “the extra mile. When I took physics, she bought the physics book to read a chapter ahead so she could explain things.”
Micah’s favorite high school class was AP Human Geography. “It really taught me how to focus, and how to apply lessons to day-to-day life. It sort of made me ‘nerd out’ a bit. It really got me focused on how to focus.”
Besides class, high school kept her busy with student council, Black History Month assembly, ski club, and dance team with the marching band. Her dance group also traveled to Rwanda.
Micah said she ultimately chose Howard because the school offered a good financial package. She also earned three scholarships, “so I’ve been able to pay off my whole first year.” She’s also saving money by living at home this semester, and she got a job at Walgreens in June after the COVID-19 quarantine started. “Although I’m sad about being home, it works out financially,” she added.
She has ties to Howard because some family members went there. “They’re known for their networking. I’ve known people who had opportunities to work at NASA, Google, and Apple.”
One Howard alumna getting a lot of attention right now is California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee. “I have mixed feelings about her,” Micah said, citing her record as the California attorney general. But even though she supported other candidates in the Democratic primary, she’s prepared to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, “because we can’t have another four years of Trump in office.”
For right now, Micah is ordering her books online and looking forward to classes in introduction to political science, introduction to government, a freshman seminar, and a course on Black women in America.
And like most people her age, she’s adept at using social media to meet people. The school set up an Instagram group for the Howard class of 2024, with group chats on Twitter and Instagram. She said she’s already meeting people from all over the country as well as fellow students in Chicago.
It’s not the same as being in school, but “I’m just going to have to make the best of the situation,” she said.