Age 20.
Graduate of Terry Parker High School. Attending Florida State College at Jacksonville.

Since childhood, school never came easy to James. His parents separated before he was born, and he spent most of his childhood moving around constantly, bouncing between parents. He attended schools all over Jacksonville but never for more than a year or two.

Then, he failed third grade—twice. It was the beginning of a downward spiral for James.

“I fell behind in reading and math,” James said. As he felt himself falling behind, he was keenly aware that his classmates were moving forward.

In eighth grade, he switched schools again and started fighting a lot and hanging out with the wrong crowd. By high school, he was skipping school and sometimes didn’t understand what was going on in class. He looked to his father, who dropped out in middle school but made a living in construction.

Eventually, James walked out of high school, intending never to return. Then, he started looking for work.

When he would turn in an application, managers would tell him they already had a stack full of applications from people who do have high school diplomas and kids who were still in school.

“One person looked at me and said, well, why should we get you? What do you have that these people don’t? And I really didn’t have an answer for that,” James said.

After a few months of getting sporadic hard construction labor jobs with his father, James began to realize the benefits of an education.

Although some said it was impossible, he re-enrolled in high school after being gone for three months. To make up for lost time, he spent hours in the library to catch up, and studied intensively for the FCAT. In spring of 2011, James graduated. Today, teachers and classmates see James as the success story he is.