Devonte DeShawn Miller will be going to college this fall, at the University of Northern Iowa. That is where he is from, but that is not where he grew up. Devonte’s path to college has, in fact, not been an easy one.
This is the last of four articles about the winners of the 22nd Annual Beat the Odds Awards, telling the stories of local high school seniors who have overcome great hardship through determination and courage and who are now headed toward college and continued success. Look for the others in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.
As a child, Devonte moved around a lot. He lived in four different states, and experienced turmoil along the way. His father left the family when Devonte was young, and, eventually, Devonte found himself spending two years in a juvenile detention facility, starting when he was in ninth grade. From then on, Devonte says, his high school grades suffered, and his grade point average was in the D- range. Between jail and his return to high school, Devonte also became a father to two young children, and experienced homelessness.
Now, with the help of the supportive teachers he found at St. Paul’s Gordon Parks High School, where he is a senior, Devonte has earned one of four $4,000 “Beat the Odds” scholarships from the Children’s Defense Fund. Saying he became more mature while at Gordon Parks, Devonte says he benefitted from learning how to get to the next level in life. Specifically, he credits Gordon Parks High School social studies teacher Luke Turvold with inspiring him to work hard, tell his story, and apply for the Beat the Odds scholarship.
Left: Devonte DeShawn Miller (Photo courtesy of Children’s Defense Fund)
Devonte did write an essay about his life, and was thrilled to learn that he was one of the top thirty applicants, and then, that he had won a scholarship. Overcoming adversity in life is a requirement for all of the scholarship winners, as is the demonstration of leadership qualities. One aspect of leadership Devonte has shown is a willingness to inspire others with his own story, as he has been invited to speak to education groups in various states about his journey. As he put it, he has gone from being “locked up” to being a scholarship winner who is on his way to college. When he gets there, Devonte says he plans to study psychology and communication because he “likes learning about the brain.”
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.