Ivry Hall has a tale to tell – one that is too unbelievable and too tragic to be anything but real. But it is who life’s challenges have made him, and where Hall is going from here, that he wants to be his life’s story.
Chicago born-and-raised, Hall just turned 18 last month.
“I grew up on the South Side. Englewood, 64th and Laflin,” he told WLS-TV. “My mom did a lot of moving, but that’s where I spent most of my childhood.”
His upbringing, like that of most in this infamous part of the Windy City, was filled with serious trouble.
“Gang banging,” Hall admitted. “I used to smoke when I was little.”
He also dropped out of school, saying that is what was expected of children like him in that urban neighborhood.
Hall said, “I did a lot of stuff. That’s just from the image I was seeing so I wanted to do it, too.”
And that was all before his mom, who was raising him as a single mother, got cancer when Hall was only 12.
“When my mom passed away, I was so hurt,” he reflected. “And I just wanted to do better.”
This tragedy inspired Hall to go back to school, and after some time, attend Tilden High School.
While in a positive frame of mind again, his life did not necessarily get easier when he went back to get his education. Hall was living with a cousin who moved nearly two hours from where he went to class.
“I had to get on three buses and one train,” Hall explained.
However, through hard work and the right attitude, he always kept going.
“I don’t believe in giving up, and I think that failure is not an option,” said Hall.
Not only did his mom pass away when he was 12, but when he was a senior in high school, Hall’s dad died of lung failure.
“Of course, I lost my mom. I lost my dad,” he told WLS-TV in Chicago. “I wish they were still here to see what I’ve accomplished now, but they’re not. Everything is not going to come as you want it.”
Hall’s faith in Jesus Christ, sports and a local boxing gym got him through the hard times. He also had mentors at his church who never stopped encouraging him.
Hall said, “They are like, ‘Ivry, you’re going to be something. You’re so smart.’ And that stuff encouraged me to do good.”
“No pity party,” explained Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church, where Hall attends. “No ‘poor me.’ He was just a young brother who wanted the best for himself and others.”
Hall set a goal for himself when his mother died, and he never took his eye off achieving it.
“I always wish that I could graduate valedictorian, and look, I did,” he recounted. “I was beyond happy.”
Now, Hall is beginning his freshman year at Alabama State University in Montgomery, a triumph made possible in part by a $10,000 scholarship from his church.
The teen from the South Side of Chicago is just getting started on writing his life’s story, but he has a good plan for what comes next.
“Major in business, so I can open up my own business,” Hall forecasted.
He added, “I’m not for sure what I want to open up, but I want to help people.”
Hall now has his sights set on a new goal, and he is determined to succeed.
“I’m going to go to college and graduate, so I’m going to find a way to study,” Hall said. “I’m going to find a way to do everything without giving up.”
“If I give up, I will be just like everybody that I know,” he continued.
The young man also shared his key to overcoming the challenges life has thrown at him again and again.
“You have to give 100 percent in everything you do,” Hall emphasized. “Once you give up, you’ll only be used to giving up. At least try. If you can’t do it, continue to try.”
He has been through a lot in his short time on earth, but to him, a blank canvas awaits.
“This is the start of a new life,” Hall concluded.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn