Keimon Alexander Dupree, 14, a ninth-grade honor student at Urban Pathways Charter School in Downtown Pittsburgh, has the demeanor of a seasoned scholar with his eyes on the prize—a degree in mechanical engineering from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Carnegie Mellon University.
He is on track for reaching his goal in that his favorite subject is math. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA for the majority of his school years and has a unique and quick understanding of the technical aspects of things.
When Keimon’s father brought home a set of schematics from an electrical class he was taking for work, the youth spotted them on the table and then demonstrated his keen ability to translate information, stunning his parents.
“He was quickly looking at them and holding a discussion with his father about them,” said Keimon’s mother, Keisha, who works for Pittsburgh Public Schools. “We were both amazed. It was like Greek to me. His dad was going to class for it, but Keimon was able to explain them to me.”
His father, Mondale, a senior mechanic with P&W Foreign Cars, said Keimon figured things out at an early age.
“He was walking by 8 months and the doctor warned us that if we should see him walking, we should quickly grab him up. His legs were not strong enough.”
His parents share that they knew early on that it would be important to keep their two sons busy, to identify their interests and then direct them that way. His mom explained that “concentrating on good schools and after-school programs was essential, since we both work. But most important was to set guidelines in our home and stick to them.”
Keimon, who resides with his family in Pittsburgh’s Oak Hill neighborhood, has the all the makings of a real renaissance man. Apart from his scholarly abilities, he plays soccer and football, and is an accomplished musician on the steel pans, trumpet and guitar.
“He has never had a formal music lesson—but reads music and plays by ear as well,” Keisha said.
Tracy Whorton, the music teacher at Urban Pathways, invited Keimon to become a part of the Senior Steel Pan Ensemble because she saw his ability to analyze concepts and then grasp them.
“There are three things that make him the kind of student teachers hope for: he wants to learn, he thinks things through and then he will ask mind-blowing questions, and he has amazing family support,” Whorton said. “All these things make him ideal to teach.”
Keimon and his brother, Michael, who also does well in school, have participated in Higher Achievement, a rigorous after-school and summer academic program that gives youth from at-risk communities their best opportunity to succeed in middle school—and in life.
“Keimon’s accomplishments with Higher Achievement are many,” said Dr. Wendy Ethridge Smith, Higher Achievement executive director. “He was a youth keynote speaker at the 2012 National Summer Learning Conference, as well as the 2013 youth speaker at the ‘Lights On Afterschool’ event at the Consol Center in October 2013, and has led his fellow scholars in Higher Achievement as the ‘Hill District Ambassador.’ He is our version of student leadership.”
This May, Keimon became the first Higher Achievement Pittsburgh scholar to win a $1,000 scholarship through the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation, which has pledged a special award to one eighth-grade graduate per city who exemplifies Higher Achievement culture and academic excellence. He will be recognized at Higher Achievement’s annual gala in Washington, D.C., this November.
Every fall, Urban Pathways conducts Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment testing. Keimon’s parents were told that his score of 256 was “off the charts” and it was higher than any of the seniors—this was college-level math.
Hunkered down close to his mother on the sofa, Keimon simply summed up his skills and achievements in a few brief sentences.
“For one thing, I enjoy it all, and when you really enjoy what you’re doing, it is not that difficult to do it. I always just liked figuring things out—I think my thought process just works like that, so I can make anything out of whatever I am working with. I just like to make things.”