23 Big Dreams

In this "23 Big Dreams" series, the LeBron James Family Foundation and its broadcast partner, WKYC, will highlight a new Akron Public School student and his or her career aspirations each week. With a tuition and fees scholarship from The University of Akron, the commitment of college has changed their personal goals and their expectations for their futures. As LeBron continues to chase his big dreams in the NBA Finals, these kids from Akron are beginning to chase their own.

Even before her daughter was born, Latasha McCullough knew something was wrong. Call it a mother’s intuition, but as soon as her first born entered the world, she was quickly taken from her and placed into an incubator the baby would rely on to breathe. The traumatic situation left no time for that monumental first mother-baby introduction. No snuggles, no kisses, not even a hello. For days, all the helpless first-time mother could do was cry tears of worry. With her brand new baby suffering from a collapsed lung, Latasha visited the hospital every single day. It would be a long, painful two months before she could finally bring her baby home.

Now a beautiful, grown, soon-to-be 7th grader at Innes Community Learning Center in Akron, Arlissa McCullough has turned her mother’s nightmare into a positive. Instead of dwelling on the past and focusing on the pain, Arlissa has channeled all of that into something bigger than herself. With a passion for babies that stems from those first days of her life, Arlissa has a dream to become a doctor. More specifically, she wants to be a pediatrician so she can help other babies.

"I don’t want other kids’ moms to be missing them the way my mom missed me," she says of those difficult first few months.

For some, such a devastating situation may cause deep-seated anger and confusion. For Arlissa, her collapsed lung in infancy caused her a myriad of health issues that created a very difficult childhood – in some unfortunate instances, even leading to bullying in school. But the ability to take that experience and turn it into a life-long passion speaks volumes about the type of kid from Akron Arlissa is.

As a proud member of the LeBron James Family Foundation’s Akron I PROMISE Network, Arlissa embodies the spirit, the fight, and the determination that Akron has become known for. She is well aware becoming a doctor is not going to be easy, but she is following the lead of another kid from Akron that has shown her anything is possible.

"To see someone like LeBron who was born where you came from, it makes you think ‘why can’t I do that?’ He didn’t have anything and he became the most famous basketball player in the world. To have encouragement from him, it makes me think I can do whatever I dream to do because LeBron came out of Akron," she says.

With her name on the honor roll the last three semesters and a current cumulative 3.8 GPA, Arlissa is well on her way to making her dream a reality. She is committed to the many years of hard work and school it will require, and knowing her path will lead her to The University of Akron where she has a guaranteed four-year scholarship if she holds up her end of the deal, gives her a lot of confidence.

It’s confidence that she did not have before. It’s confidence to perform a solo in her school’s orchestra program. Confidence to stay positive in the face of bullying. Confidence that she can go to college without having to worry about her mom worrying about the finances.

"I’ve always stressed that college was important, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it," says her mom, Latasha.

To follow our kids' dreams, head to WKYC.com every Thursday for the latest inspiring story.