Zhe ‘Don Beard missed 300 homework assignments in one year.
Julie Justice hid in the school hallways with her friends when she was supposed to be in class.
Both have chosen to do better in school and were among 12 students honored at the 21st annual Howard County Turnaround Breakfast.
“I was once a slacker, but I wanted to feel good about myself,” Beard told those gathered at the breakfast.
Beard was the Western Middle School award recipient.
Principal Julie Pownall said she can’t count how many times she sat with Beard in her office or called his father to discuss academic issues.
Then one day, Beard told her, “I promise you I’m going to prove you wrong. I’m going to show you what I can do.”
The talented three-sport athlete gave up basketball, baseball and football for a whole year to focus on his studies. He turned in his missing assignments and brought his grades up, Pownall said.
“He’s back on the field and doing great things,” Pownall said. “He’s such an amazing student. I could only be blessed with 600 of him at school.”
Teachers and students paraded on stage Thursday to share similar success stories.
Central Middle School student Alanis Kitts transformed herself into a girl who is mature, has a positive attitude and has made great academic strides, teacher Carol Deditch said.
Alanis held on to a poem that Deditch gives all her female students.
Deditch quoted a few lines Thursday.
“After a while, you begin to accept your defeats with your head held high ... with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,” she said. “You learn, and you learn, and you learn.”
Taylor High School senior Ariel Copeland fought back tears as she accepted her Turnaround award.
“I didn’t expect to cry,” she said.