For Devonte DeShawn Miller high school didn’t include typical experiences. Devonte’s journey included multiple high schools, incarceration, homelessness and fatherhood.
These are the challenges Devonte brought with him to Gordon Parks High School, an alternative school in St. Paul, where he is currently a senior. His Beat the Odds nominator and teacher, Luke Turvold, says Devante first impressed him as a naturally gifted, intelligent student, who could be difficult. Over the course of the year, however, Devonte transformed from a student on the verge of not completing high school to a high-achiever.
Reflecting on the difficulties he has overcome, Devonte observes, “They weren’t difficulties at the time. It was just my life.” Devonte’s dad left when Devonte was quite young and he admits to not having a lot of discipline while growing up. In his freshman year, he got into trouble and landed up in a juvenile detention facility. When he was released, he found himself homeless, forced to stay wherever he could. Over the next two years, he also became the father of two children. When he landed at Gordon Parks, he had a lot of anger. But, he says, “The people here were different. They all saw the good in me, even when I was trying to hide it.”
Devonte believes many of his issues and anger stemmed from his dad not being around. He credits much of his turn-around to becoming a father himself. “My children are the ones who really caused me to think about my life and try to change,” he writes. “It was the beginning of a different me.”
That “different me” is now recognized as a student-leader and star athlete at Gordon Parks where he participates in numerous student groups and activities. In October, Devonte participated in a summit on racial equity where he mesmerized the audience with his experiences as an African American male. As a result, Devonte has been invited to speak at schools in Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin. He will continue his “different me” transformation next year at either the University of St. Thomas or the University of Northern Iowa where he plans to study psychology and communications.