Keon: Finding Confidence at AAD

Keon loved his first year at a traditional high school – but not because of academics. He was making friends, playing sports, and having fun, but he says he “wasn’t really focused.” Once 10th grade came around, he got more serious about his education. That’s when he realized that the traditional high school setting wasn’t working for him.

“If you don’t understand something, everyone looks at you like, ‘Oh, he’s so slow,’ and it makes you not want to ask questions,” Keon says.

At the same time, he was becoming preoccupied with issues at home. Both his mother and his grandmother were having serious health problems. He began skipping school to look after them, and it wasn’t long before he dropped out.

A year later, the Durham YES program referred him to Achievement Academy. Keon took the opportunity, which came at the perfect time: During his time off, he had been working construction, and was nominated for a promotion to assistant site manager – a promotion that he needed a GED to get. Also, his mother, grandmother, and uncle all passed away in a short amount of time, and he wanted to be better able to support his remaining family.

“I thought that in order for me to help out, I’d need my GED so I could bring in some more income,” Keon says.

Achievement Academy is a great fit for him. He says that the hours, which are shorter and more flexible than at a traditional high school, give him more opportunities to get and keep a job. He is able to provide for his aunt and cousins while furthering his education.

Keon is a star student at AAD: He has just one more GED test to pass; he is a member of the Youth Council at Made in Durham; and he helps to gather holiday gifts for the residents at New Bethel Homes for the Elderly.

“Before AAD, I wasn’t really doing anything,” he says. “After I started at AAD, I started doing a lot more.”

Among the many people whom he credits for his success is his best friend, Shaquana, who is also a student at AAD. She is always supportive, helping him with work and sending him a text every morning to wake him up and tell him to go to school.

“She helped me get over the hump where I was just standing there with baggage that I was carrying with me,” Keon says.

After graduation, he wants to attend Durham Technical Community College and then transfer to a 4-year university, ideally the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he would love to play football. He plans to study criminal justice and music production.

The most important thing that AAD has given Keon is a new sense of confidence in himself.

“Well, I gotta be confident,” he says. “If not me, who else? If I can’t carry myself like I know what I’m doing, nobody else will believe it.”


Interview with Suzette Fuller, December 2017

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