CHICAGO — College student and Chicago transplant Amze White became homeless when he lost his job, apartment and car, but he said he never lost his determination.
“There were plenty of times I was ready to go back home,” the 28-year-old from Atlanta said. “I had even bought a one-way ticket once and didn't tell anyone.”
After keeping a promise made to his dying father, White decided to apply to East-West University. He was already the first in his family to graduate from high school and he was ready to be the first to go to college and graduate. He had tried college a couple of times in the past, but would always drop out, he said.
“My dad’s last words were ‘As long as you have tools in your hands, keep building,’ and he looked at me,” White said. “It was a week before he died and he said, ‘Go back to school, finish strong.’”
So, at age 28 he moved to Chicago in January of 2016, with the goal of becoming a neurologist. He had no family, but he did join Rivers of Living Water Ministries International so he had his church family. Before school started in April, he was able to secure a job in a doctor’s office. He said he shared with his employer during the interview process his plan to return to school. Everyone was on board, he said, but when it came time to juggle school and work, it became an issue. Eventually he was let go.
White continued taking classes while looking for another job. He eventually found one and just like the first job, this employer also had a problem with his schedule, he said. He lost the second job.
Things began to fall apart. First he lost the apartment, so he slept in his car for awhile, but when he fell behind on payments, he lost that too. He started staying with different people he knew and sleeping on their couches.
It was a difficult season for him, he said.
There were times where he would sit in a local McDonald’s every day until 11 p.m. before returning to his temporary home because he knew the friend would be asleep. He would start his day of studying at 5 a.m., even though classes weren’t until much later.
Another host would get drunk and take drugs, and one day he found all of his clothes tossed out the door.
“I found that sometimes it’s easy to jump ship and go back home; that’s the easy thing to do, but sometimes when you have a mandate and goals to be successful, it’s in the roughest places where diamonds and pearls are found and where gifts are really discovered,” he said.
Even though he almost returned home, he couldn't go through with it he said.
“College is a mandate for me so I take it very seriously,” White said, who is doing much better now. He found a job at a hair salon and he’s living on his own in Englewood. He’s in his second year of college and never needed to sit out despite the turmoil that was going on around him, he said.
As a man of God, he said he believed it was up to him to break the “generational curse” on the men in his family. Everyone had children before finishing high school, but he has no children.
“I believe if I don’t finish college, or even get into it, that curse wouldn’t have been broken off of the male lineage in my family,” he said.
White has written two books— “Prayers of Endurance: Journey Through Life” and “Cracking The Code: Deliverance” —and is working on a third. One of his missions is to continue to encourage and uplift those who are going through rough seasons in their lives, he said.
“Some of the questions I ask myself weekly are, ‘Who are you and where are you’—this deals with measurement,” he said. “‘Where are you at today and where you’re at today, shouldn't be where you’re at tomorrow.”
East-West University professor Karishma Mukherji, head of the biology department, has taught White in two of her classes. He is one of her top students, she said.
"He did great in both of my courses," she said. "He's very curious, hard working and punctual. At times, when he didn't have a place to stay, he would be late on assignments, but he would always email me saying he needed some more time."
Mukherji said that she believes White will accomplish his goal of becoming a neurologist. He'll be taking her neuroscience class in the spring.
"I can see him doing that without a doubt," she said. "We are working toward his goal together."