As a child, Rafael Baker already knew what he wanted out of life — to become a doctor. That was his goal. But he also wanted to avoid some of the pitfalls he had seen other locals fall into.
“You know, you see some people here in town that get off track. I didn’t want to do that,” he said.
The youngster made a promise to himself that he was going to do his best to fulfill those goals, and he lived up to it. He graduated from Brunswick High School with a 4.2 GPA and got enough scholarships to fully fund his college education.
While a lot of the motivation and drive was internal, Baker credits his family with keeping him on track. For one thing, his brother, Akeem, also made stellar grades, a 4.0, and received an Oprah Winfrey Scholarship for college.
“For me, I thank my family. On my mother’s side, I was the first person ever to finish college. My father actually graduated from Morehouse but, once he came to Brunswick, he got on a whole different path,” he said. “He was in and out of prison. But we kept in touch and he always motivated me. My grandma too, she played a big part in helping me staying focused.”
Both young men — Rafael and Akeem — attended and graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“I graduated from Morehouse College summa cum laude, which is the highest honors possible, and Akeem finished magna cum laude, which is the next honors below summa,” he said. “I was also a Phi Beta Kappa member as well, which is the most prestigious honors society in the United States.”
He was also a member of Phi Delta Epsilon, an international medical fraternity at Morehouse. Overall, the experience — both inside and outside of the classroom — helped to prepare him for his next step — medical school. He recently completed the MCAT and will receive the results in a month.
“I’ve been studying for it since December. I took a MCAT prep course and did practice tests. I’d go to the library after my classes and stay there until it closed, then I’d go study on my own,” he said.
The dedication paid off. He feels confident that his scores, coupled with his grades and extracurricular work, will be enough to get him into almost any medical school in the country, including the Ivy League schools. But he’s holding back on picking on a school just yet. That also goes for his field of study.
“I’ve been thinking about some form of surgery or anesthesiology. I’ve been told by people who went to medical school that you never really know until you do your rotations,” he said. “And you have to think about raising a family one day and all of that will factor into the decision.”
For now, he’s focused on the immediate next step — heading to Bethesda, Md., to conduct clinical research and publish papers at the National Institutes of Health. Eventually, he’d like to do something special to give back to his community, perhaps establishing a scholarship for local students.
“I know what it’s like to have to gather up money to go to school. It was all on me. I had to do it all through scholarships,” he said. “But I want them to know that someone has their back and has faith in them.”
He also wants to show youngsters, through his own experiences and achievements, that anything is truly possible.
“When I look back, I just think ‘God is so good.” I was able to make it through everything and stay focused,” he said. “But the youth in the community need to see people who’ve actually done it. People say ‘you can do anything’ but until you see someone do it ... you aren’t really sure.”
Coastal People appears Mondays. Contact Lindsey Adkison at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.