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Leland Shelton beat the odds to succeed at Harvard Law

This post is part of Excellence and Equity, a dialogue among IB educators and school leaders around empowering underrepresented students for success in life-long learning.

Our project’s E2 (Excellence and Equity) Framework aims to provide an image of what an equitable school where underrepresented students would have access to the highest levels of achievement would look like. Cindy Harcum’s introduction and Leland Shelton’s video testimonial provide a successful example of an E2 Framework component on access: “Students experience a learning environment that is academically challenging and also values their ethnic, cultural and socio-economic background.”


By Cindy Harcum

Ask anyone who knows him, and they will tell you that Leland Shelton is one of the good guys.  Compassionate about improving the lives of others and earnest about the knowledge and resilience it takes to fight the just causes, Leland is a man who beat the odds.

Long known as a student leader at Baltimore City College High School, few knew that the President of the Senior Class of 2009 was once a disadvantaged statistic. “I wasn’t suppose to make it,” Leland will tell you. But having access to the right supports in his life, faith in his future, and the challenge of the International Baccalaureate curriculum gave Leland the tools he needed to succeed in his education.

Despite his growing up in Baltimore shelters and later receiving the assistance of his grandparents who worked hard to care for him and two siblings, Leland knew that education mattered. He challenged himself in his classes, took on the rigors of the Diploma program, and stayed focused on his dream to attend college. Earning scholarships for his A’s and B’s in his IB courses, Leland’s efforts paid off.

In 2013, Leland graduated from Morehouse College and received the highest of accolades at commencement when the President of the United States, Barack Obama, offered a shout-out to the man, who like him would attend Harvard Law School. Now in his second year of Harvard Law with a family of his own, Leland plans to serve and defend underprivileged youth.

Leland is the embodiment of the IB mission.


Cindy Harcum is Principal of Baltimore City College High School. She can be reached at charcum@bcps.k12.md.us.

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