Students awarded for turning lives around
Many came from impoverished, broken homes.
But their stories are extraordinary.
The Berkeley County School District recognized and awarded 26 middle and high school students from across the district at the 15th annual Turnaround Achievement Awards luncheon April 25 at the Berkeley Country Club.
The students’ stories were all compelling, some harrowing. Students were called to the stage with their principal or school representative and received a plaque from Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini.
Each student was given a chance to speak; some thanked teachers, parents, friends and supporters while most shied away. Some shed tears.
BCSD Community Relations Director Amy Kovach told students the day of the turnaround luncheon would be their first journal entry. “If you didn’t have a tear in your eyes for some of these you’ve got a hard heart,” Franchini said.
Goose Creek High’s Antoinette “Nettie” Young has had a great deal of turmoil in her personal life.
“At age 12, I was put in the system of statistics of kids born into poverty who never make it out,” she wrote. “With no father figure, I looked up to the people around me — drug dealers, robbers and gangbangers. I soon fell into the life they portrayed and began to go down the wrong road.
“By the age of 14, I had been shot at, robbed, and jumped. In my freshman year of high school, I had lost all hope for a better future and I had lost all hope for myself.”
Nettie earned only two credits in her freshman year and had a long list of disciplinary infractions that included tardies, truancy, cutting class, fighting and a disorderly conduct charge.
She was placed on school probation. She started 10th grade with similar disciplinary issues but they became fewer and fewer. With the love and support of her mentor, family and consumer economics teacher Lissa Deese, and hard work, Nettie changed her life.
Nettie started passing her classes and turned herself around. She has been accepted to her first choice of colleges and is committed to overcoming every obstacle in her way.
At the age of two, current Berkeley Middle College student Patrick Peterson and his siblings were removed from his mother’s care and were taken to live with his grandmother. They moved frequently. Patrick attended 10 schools in four states. Patrick has dealt with hunger and the stress of caring for a younger brother and sister. He remembers feeling responsible for making sure the young children had food.
Often there was enough for them but not for him. He became a ward of the state, living in a foster home before being separated from his siblings and being assigned to a group home.
As a young teen he met an individual who helped him understand the strength that comes from faith. He realized he could become an advocate for himself and his future.
He called his aunt and uncle in South Carolina and asked to live with them. For several years they have provided him with a safe, supportive, loving home. When Patrick first visited Berkeley Middle College his last name was King. He recently became Patrick Peterson when his aunt and uncle legally adopted him.
Patrick applied to the Middle College two years ago, realizing academic success would help him toward his goal of becoming an engineer. He is vice president of the Beta Club and a member of the National Honor Society.
He is on track to earn the 38 semester hours of transferrable college credit, works at the Berkeley Country Club, and will join the Corps of Cadets at the Citadel next fall as a member of the Class of 2017, with a life scholarship.
Westview Middle students are encouraged to be proactive and be “doers.” After overcoming struggles, student Bianca Baker has taken this philosophy to heart.
Bianca was on probation when she came to Westview Middle. She had been expelled the previous year but saw the new school as a chance to begin anew.
From day one, she has worked to maintain her grades. She has been a model student.
After the first nine weeks, she was one grade shy of participating in the academic celebration. Bianca approached a school staff member and asked what she needed to do to make this honor the following quarter. With the incentive of receiving two popsicles, Bianca accomplished her goal and has not missed the list since.
She has improved the culture of caring at Westview. Not a day goes by without her
checking on how the school’s administrative team is doing. She brightens everyone’s day, and the school is a better place because of her attitude and actions.
Bianca said she turned her life around after her grandmother passed away. She also said she wants to keep a smile on her mama’s face. Bianca attended the luncheon with her mother, Tangala Baker, and her 3-year-old sister Ja’nia Baylock.