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The Heart of a Warrior

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After wrestling with pressures of emotions connected to losing his father at a young age, Kenton got the support he needed to cope and is looking forward to graduation and becoming an elementary school teacher.

When R.B. Stall High School senior Kenton Kelley describes his behavior as a youngster, the word he uses is ‘menace.’ His father passed away when he was five, and Kenton needed more guidance than his mother alone could provide.

“I was raising chaos everywhere,” said Kenton, who is now a Student Ambassador at Stall, entrusted by the principal with greeting visitors who come to the school. “Some of the things I did, I look back and think, if I had stayed on that path, I would be in prison right now.”

Seeds for the turnaround were planted when Kenton was in middle school and first connected to the services provided by Communities In Schools of Charleston. Entering high school, he was enrolled in Reducing the Risk for incoming freshman. With group sessions, peer interventions and field trips, Kenton was surrounded by programs, counselors and support, and learned the skills to make wiser life choices.

As a senior Kenton participated in the CIS College/Career Preparation Learning Lab. He currently has two wrestling scholarship offers but hasn’t yet decided which school to attend. He plans to become an elementary school teacher, giving back to youth who need the support.

“If I didn’t have 1,500 people helping me I might not be here,” said Kenton. “My mother, the CIS of Charleston staff, my wrestling coaches — I have a long list of people to thank who never gave up on me. I knew I wanted to graduate from high school. But CIS made me realize I could go to college. I never imagined that.”

Kenton the menace matured and the difference is noticeable. The graduating senior is focused, goal oriented and responsible.

“This is a student who wanted me to take a picture of his college acceptance letter to show it to the counselors at his old school,” said Katrina Bell, a site coordinator at R.B. Stall High School. She remembered how frequently CIS was called to intervene because of the student’s behavior. “He’s had a lot of growth, and a change in mindset.”

Along with his academic success, Kenton is also an athlete, taking up wrestling in the seventh grade and excelling at the sport. His 2015-2016 school record is 46-6. Kenton finished his high school wrestling career by reaching the third round of the National Wrestling Championships this past April. But wrestling for Kenton has meant more than just sports.

“Wrestling has given me a lot of insight into life,” he said. “In a match, you have one goal but so does your opponent. It comes down to let’s see who can achieve it first. And success for me means I have to keep pushing. When I want to give up, in wrestling, in life, I tell myself, ‘Keep pushing.’ If not I won’t get to the big stage.”

- April 2016

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