A Back of the Yards West Point Story
Back of the Yards College Prep student Zorian Flowers was recently accepted into West Point. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
Sitting upright with perfect posture in his living room sofa chair, Back of the Yards College Prep (BOYCP) Senior Zorian Flowers described how, like many before him, a book helped shape and inspire his future. Flowers, 17, was recently accepted into the prestigious United States Military Academy known as West Point. He credits Battle Dress, a novel about a female cadet’s experience at West Point on his decision to apply.
“After reading that book, I just knew that it was somewhere I wanted to go and ever since then, I’ve been pursuing a route to West Point,” Flowers said.
From left to right: Flowers’ mother, Zalinka Bunch, Zorian Flowers, and his grandmother, Mildred Bunch. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
Flowers’ family has lived in their Back of the Yards home since 1989 his grandmother Mildred Bunch said, as she sat gracefully across from her grandson.
For the young Back of the Yards resident, getting accepted to West Point has been something he has worked diligently to attain for the past four years. His achievement was realized Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 when he received his letter of acceptance to West Point.
“When I first received my acceptance [letter] it made me feel like the four years that I put into it were worth it, all the long nights and everything I did…standard school-until 7 or 9 o’clock, not getting out of sports until that late and staying up and doing homework until about 12 or 1 a.m. It made me feel like all of that was worth it. And that the hard work eventually pays off,” Flowers said.
His mother, Zalinka Bunch is incredibly proud of his accomplishment. She said she knew that since Zorian was a little boy, he would succeed in whatever it was that he set himself out to do. “He’d tune everything out around himself and his surroundings and was focused on what he was doing so I always knew he would succeed in life,” Bunch said.
Flowers’ focus and willpower helped him overcome the trials that life sometimes brings, even in spite of family tragedy. In April 2016, he lost his oldest brother, 27-year-old Dennis Bunch, to a senseless act of gun violence.
As Bunch stared out the window while tears rolled down her face, she went on to say that she is proud of him for staying focused as her family continues to mourn. “When things like that happen in families, it’s very hard, but with that happening he still stayed focused to continue striving through struggle to keep going,” said the mother of eight.
Flowers not only excels academically, but is committed to his school and greater community. He is part of the Back of the Yards College Prep swim team and serves on the local school council. His twin sister, Zori, 17, also attends BOYCP.
The hardest thing for him has been seeing everyone having the typical high school experience but with his life and career goals, he knows the sacrifices he’s making will allow him to get a step closer to achieving his dreams.
“I want [the] high school experience that I see everyone having but I realized that [it’s] not the experience that is going to get me to where I want to go,” Flowers explained.
He likes to always look at the bright side of things and keeps his determination and eyes on the ultimate goal. This is the best piece of advice he said can offer to anyone who is trying to reach their goals.
“I think that people have to realize that no matter where you come from you can always reach your goals as long as you keep going,” Flowers said. “I don’t want to say this neighborhood has put me down, but the neighborhood is the reason why I am where I am now. Don’t think that just because you’re in this neighborhood that you’re going to fall into those statistics. Instead, you always have to remember that you’re someone and that you are going to reach wherever you want to go as long as you put the work into it.”
Flowers’ plan is to eventually join the U.S. Army with the hope of serving as a platoon leader.
“After that, I see myself serving the public in some form, maybe in Congress or here in Illinois, or as an alderman, but the ultimate goal is to run for the White House,” he said. Zorian credits the strength of the women in his life and is grateful for their help regardless of the hard times they have gone through individually and as a family.
“That’s one of the things that empower me the most-that keep me going. You see so many single parents, you know, in this day and age, to go back and look and say that I’ve made it and that other people can make it- that means a lot to me…Seeing those strong women go through the things they do and then they want to keep their kids going-I think that’s one of the things that keep me going.”
As Zorian wiped away tears while still sitting in perfect posture, he and his family all agreed that this is just the beginning of his story.