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Craig graduate Candace Enis running toward her future
JANESVILLE—Janesville Craig senior Candace Enis knows about overcoming adversity.
She describes growing up in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago's south side as a difficult learning experience.
"I didn't think I'd be moving out of Chicago, so going through the things of friends getting killed helped shape me," Enis said. "It was like 'OK, this is going on, so you have to find a way out' and it pushed me more. I know that I would not want to move back there."
Englewood ranks fifth among Chicago's 77 community areas for violent crime reports in the past month, according to the Chicago Tribune. Its population dropped from 89,659 in 1970 to 30,654 in 2010.
"Chicago is a dangerous place," Enis said. "“Englewood was not a good neighborhood."
Enis moved to Janesville about five years ago with her dad. She said what she's had to go through in her life has shaped who she is today. School came second, but Enis learned to adapt, she said.
"I was the type of student that never really did her homework and trouble always seemed to find me," Enis said.
Her family housing situation has been difficult at times, which made focusing on school tough.
"I was living with friends, then I moved here, and it was sort of the same way my freshman year," Enis said. "Academic wise, it wasn't the best. My junior year I finally figured out that I need to get on track."
Enis credits Sonja Robinson, dean of students at Craig, and math teacher Nicole Shucha with motivating her.
"Mrs. Robinson always encouraged me that I could do it and just because I'm going through this or that it doesn't mean that I can't," Enis said. "Don't let things discourage you."
"Mrs. Shucha, I live with her now," Enis said. "She's brought me out of a bad home situation, brought me under her wing, brought me into her house and got me onto the right track pretty much."
"I want to thank them for helping me get to where I am now," she said.
Enis is graduating after being involved in track, the peer group Sisters Inspiring Sisters, and LINK crew, which helps mentor incoming freshmen.
"I've known her since eighth grade," Robinson said. "She is a phenomenal young lady and has been through a tremendous amount of adversity. Despite that, she's determined to graduate high school and go on to college."
Enis found that running track helped her relieve stress and enjoy school.
"I was managing basketball, and I saw them running in open gym for track," Enis said. "I said 'I'll race against you guys' and the coach told me I should go out for it."
Enis made it to state in track three years in a row and plans to attend the University of Dubuque this fall and run track. She competes in the 4 X 100 meter relay, 4 X 200 meter relay and the open 200-meter.
"I ran track for the first time my freshman year," Enis said. "I always knew that I was fast, but I never knew I could do it, and running wasn't really my passion."
Enis plans to major in education and psychology.
"A lot of people can get into college," Robinson said. "The awesome thing is when you get there, finish, obtain that degree and get a career you want. I definitely want to see that for her. Even though she's graduating, I'll always be there for her wherever I am, and she knows that."
Robinson said that once Enis focused on believing in herself, things came together for her.
"There were times I was worried about her, of course," Robinson said. "She's had times when she didn't believe in herself and didn't think she could do it."
"People go through different things," she said. "The average student could appreciate the hardship, but don't really know her story. If they did, they would be extremely impressed where she is at this point in her life."
Enis has overcome obstacles, Robinson said.
"I would say she wants a better life for herself," Robinson said. "She wants a life where she can provide for herself and a family someday and not worry about the things she had to worry about."
Enis' advice for students entering high school is to stay organized, always do your homework and pick friends wisely.
"I don't think anyone has been a good student their whole life, but I've definitely worked my way up," she said.