Nathan says, “Choose Your Own Path!”

Nathan, Role Model and AAD Graduate

Nathan Overby was referred to Achievement Academy by our partners at the Durham YES program when he was seventeen. As a 2017 Achievement Academy graduate beginning his college studies at Durham Tech, he describes how the social group he affiliated with in middle school contributed to side tracking his plan to finish high school. But with a lot of love and guidance from his grandmother and his big brother, Nathan has made a huge turn in his life and has learned to focus on what really matters!  He was getting closer and closer to gang-involvement in high school and grandmother pulled him out she says, “just in time.”

Even before he was a teenager Nathan can remember what really mattered to him personally: “family and being able to work with my hands. My grandmother asked me if I wanted to help friends with house repairs. I learned how to put down floors, to fix windows and re-do roofs.”

The other thing that mattered to Nathan, he says, was “being noticed and recognized by other people.” That sense of connection and belonging contributed to what he described as a problem that started in middle school.

“I wanted everybody in the whole school to know who I was. If anyone wanted to mess with me they would find out I had protection. I was in a group of people, not a gang, but there were people who were in different gangs in this big group. If I needed protection, people had my back. I was taken out of school my first year of high school because of my bad behavior."

"Once I left that environment everything changed. I don’t need to be around trouble. I want to be someone who makes the right decisions, the right choices. I can be recognized for being someone who can accomplish things. You know what? You can outdo what you thought you wouldn’t be able to do!"

"Now I’ve passed all of my GED tests and I’m enrolled at Durham Tech for the fall. At AAD I did a special reading program where I got free books to bring home to read to my nephew; we would do this word game and he would make up stories looking at the pictures. At my old school I would get off track, but at Achievement Academy I could work with a tutor 1:1 and I was actually able to focus and concentrate on what I was learning. Now I get recognized for being successful. I plan to get a degree in mechanical engineering. I want to learn about machines: how to build them and how to fix them."

"When I was in middle school,” Nathan said, “ I didn’t want to think about college. People said, oh that takes too long. When I get my college degree,  I’ll be able to find a job doing something that I like to do. People will come to me to help them and I will make them happy.”

Nathan’s grandmother recalls bringing young Nathan in for a kindergarten entry evaluation in the 1990s. The teacher tried to warn her that the child would never be capable of going to college. His grandmother said, “I never accepted that. I knew Nathan always had and has GREATNESS in him. He has just begun!!!”

Interview, Emily Cox, MSW

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