Rooftop Revelations: Single mother in Chicago’s South Side defies the odds, keeps son on the path to success

on Feb9
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Nearly two months ago, Pastor Corey Brooks proclaimed that race was the least of his community’s problems. Yet so many Americans outside his community would insist that race is the root of its poverty, illiteracy and violence. What these Americans fail to realize is that engaging in race talk or race policies does nothing to uplift or inspire individuals to great heights. If that were true, the pastor’s community would be thriving by now. 

The only thing race is capable of is oppression at its worse and patronization at its best. One might argue that racial engineering in the name of diversity is a form of uplift, but that is not true. The power for true uplift can only take place within the soul of the individual. 

Zipporah Collins raised her son, Mario Hoover, with this universal truth. Though she worked several jobs as a single mother, she raised him with love and stayed present in his life no matter the challenges. There was nothing magical about her approach — just the universal principles of woodshedding and setting the bar higher and even higher. Last week, her son, a junior at Providence St. Mel School, scored a perfect score of 36 on the ACT, a feat achieved by only 0.313% of all the test-takers. 

On the 81st day of his 100-day rooftop vigil to raise funds for a community center designed to provide support systems to low-income students, the pastor invited Collins to the chilly roof for a conversation by the campfire.


“I wanted to talk to [Collins] because she’s a single mom, but she has done everything that we need mothers to do in our neighborhood” where “80% of the households are single parent households,” the pastor began. “The first thing I want to ask you is this: you have this son who gets 36 on the ACT. How did you do it?”

“It is Mario’s accomplishment,” Collins insisted, humbly.

“It’s his accomplishment. And yours too,” the pastor insisted. 

“Thank you. I enforce Mario to continue to do his work,” Collins said. “When he is sleeping, get up do your work. When he watching Netflix, get up do your work. Try to get to school on time. Get off the phone. Get off FaceTime. Yeah. Just keep redirecting.”

“Stay on him.”

“Stay on him.”

“Even though you work hard and you try to give him every opportunity possible, can you talk about just how you make sure that you’re present for him,” the pastor said. “Because I think a lot of times, especially with these boys in our neighborhood, some of these mothers aren’t as present as they need to be.”

“First, I’m going to give Providence St. Mel a shout-out because parent participation is needed,” Collins answered. “If you’re not there you’ll get fined … So all the parents get together. It’s like a little family. We built the community like that. I’m always wherever Mario wants to do.”


“It’s not smothering, but just being aware.”

“Do you think that’s important, especially for Garfield Park?”


“Like the South Side of Chicago where we are now, they have a lot of violence issues,” the pastor said. “How did you keep him from getting involved in any of that?” 

“I don’t know how to answer that one,” Collins said. “But Mario is … obedient … I just make sure everything is available. He goes to the boys and girls club in our neighborhood. He helps out. He’s not like secluded in the house away from everything but … I know all his friends. I know who he talks to on the phone.”

“You probably know their moms.”

“Of course. They’re my friends. So it’s a family. It’s a family.”

“I know Mario went to another school before he went to Providence St. Mel,” the pastor said. “I think a lot of reasons why some of our kids are failing so bad, is because, educationally, they are so far behind. Can you just talk about the differences in the types of schools that you’ve experienced?

“Again, parent participation.”


“When Mario was in public school, I didn’t have to come to the school for anything — just to pick up his report card,” Collins said. “I didn’t have to go for their assemblies. I didn’t have to go. Of course, I want to go see my kid perform, but it wasn’t mandatory to show up.”


“The teachers, Providence St. Mel teachers, they will stay after school till 6:00 to make sure Mario understand,” Collins added.

“I know you will tell me about his English teacher.”

“Oh, Ms. Stopka, give it up to Ms. Stopka,” Collins said excitedly. “She enforces. You have to do it. You have to write. Mario says his weakness is writing. So she’s on him to write more. You got to write more. She’s going to throw it at him. She’s going to time him. She gives [him] all the tools that he needs to succeed.”

Collins continued: “All the teachers at Providence St. Mel [were always amazing]. Mr. Smith is amazing. Mr. Browns is amazing. They really care. It’s a difference. You can tell when a teacher has their lesson plan together. And then I get emails. I get emails on everything.

“Yeah, I used to get emails for my kids too,” the pastor said. 

“If he pass, if he fail, I know. I know what’s going on.”

“I want salute you because a 36 for him is not just a 36 for him. It’s a 36 for you too,” the pastor said. “And, I mean this when I say this, you are the exact model of what we want from the mothers in our neighborhood.”



“If we can get all of our single parent moms and say, look at Zipporah, just follow what Zipporah is doing, with creating structure, with being present, giving your child opportunities and just loving them, even when they struggling, even when they just being there. That is a major accomplishment. So I want to say, thank you.”

“Thank you.”

No magic. Just love. 

Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Rooftop Revelation.

For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.

Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.

Camera by Terrell Allen.

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