MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Omarion Ikaika Calloway says his goal in life is to become a “storyteller.”
The Park Crossing High School senior already has one story to tell: He got into his dream college.
Calloway has been accepted into 21 colleges or universities, including his top choice, New York University. The first-generation college student received more than $1.3 million in scholarships.
“I want to be a storyteller, screenwriter and also a director, producer,” said Calloway.
Calloway’s grandmother encouraged and influenced his decision to both attend college and attend NYU, specifically. When Calloway was 10 years old, he became a caretaker for his grandmother and his disabled uncle.
Tiffany Calloway, his mother, spoke about how she taught Calloway to administer insulin for his relatives. His mother said she often asked him: “’Do you got this? Is this too much for you?’ And, he’d be like, ‘No, Mama, you’re good. I got this.’ ”
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His grandmother, who recently passed away recently, inspired Calloway to go to NYU. She had colon cancer, and Calloway used to tuck her into bed each night, where he would read her the stories he had written.
“My grandmother … inspired me to apply to NYU, so when she died, … I just feel a certain pain in my home,” Calloway said.
Calloway had an internship with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office this past summer. He did work for the department, including weed pulling and pressure washing.
Isaac Forbes, who was one of Calloway’s mentors at the sheriff’s office spoke about how far Calloway came in the one summer.
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“He was like a sponge,” said Forbes, adding that Calloway always had a smile on his face.
Forbes said Calloway came out of “his shell” in his time with the department. He thinks Calloway’s improved communication skills “came 360 (degrees).”
J. Kelley Ross, a facilitator for virtual learning, spoke about how, even over virtual classes, Calloway had an extremely positive disposition.
Calloway has maintained over a 3.9 GPA, which she explained was usually difficult for students using a virtual platform.
Ross explained that Calloway came into the program with a math level that the virtual program did not have, so she and his mom decided to accelerate him. While Calloway had some difficulty at first, he ended up thanking Ross for encouraging him to continue.
“I have about 50 students in the program, I could have 25 of him, I think it would make my job a lot easier,” Ross said.
Growing up, when Calloway felt he was under a lot of stress, he turned to storytelling as an outlet. His mother had purchased him a small camera for Christmas. He said he used to run around with the camera and film his younger brother, then made his whole family sit down and watch the short film.
“I would just write down my thoughts and project them onto like characters I made up in my head and just went from there. I just fell in love with storytelling ever since,” Calloway said.
He began researching film schools, which led to his discovery of NYU at age 10. NYU became his dream school because it creates “the next generation of storytellers and community builders.”
Calloway said he applied to colleges on the Common App, scholarships and found fee waivers.
He found backup schools, such as Emerson College and Fordham University.
He sees his next steps as becoming a “community builder” and working for “a better tomorrow.” He expressed that he wants to be a “voice for the voiceless.”
At NYU, he wants to start an organization for “young caregivers,” where they can meet and raise money for them.
“I know at NYU I’ll be trained in a media-based environment surrounded by artists like me,” said Calloway.
“And, he has an extraordinarily positive attitude about absolutely every endeavor,” said Ross. “He’s one of those students that that has an attitude that’s rare for a high school student. Pretty much already ready for college, I’m sure.”
Follow Jemma Stephenson on Twitter: @JK_Stephenson