Troubled Past Pushes Northeast High School Student to Thrive in Class

With hair like Justice Winslow and a smile that seems permanent, you can't miss Juvens Pierre as he strolls the halls of Northeast High School in Oakland Park. His peers can't miss his impact.

"He inspires people around the school, everything," said Kenny Charlot, one of Juvens' teammates on the track team.

"He has more experience than me so I listen to him all the time," said Tyree Simeon, a sophomore who sees Juvens as a mentor.

Everyone at Northeast sees Juvens as a leader, a role model, and it's because of the road he's traveled.

"I was that kid that never listened, never listened to nobody, only followed my own rule," Juvens said.

Those days are long gone. From a fight and F-riddled freshman year, in which Juvens said he almost dropped out of school, this senior has grown into a pillar of the student body.

"He's one of those kids now that he's pulling people along. He's showing them, 'Listen, I did it. You can do it too, don't be afraid," said school counselor Vicki Drane, who says she's never seen any student make such a dramatic turnaround.

Juvens is running off to college next year on a track scholarship, sprinting away from his past full of trouble-making, gang-banging, failing grades and hopelessness.

"Education just wasn't for him, school wasn’t for him, this was his playground," Drane said.

So what turned it around for this boy from Haiti, growing up poor with no father figure in his life? Attention and encouragement from teachers and counselors.

"I had to show him that education was important and he really didn't believe that because he had never had any success," Drane said. "We showed him that we do have expectations. 'Okay, you're used to poor grades? That's not acceptable anymore.'"

Juvens woke up, and took the attention to heart, "She showed me that if I put my mind to it, I could become something in life. The people here did turn my life around."

Through testing, the school discovered Juvens had a learning disability, a processing disorder. Suddenly, a teenager realized he wasn't stupid, he could learn with the right strategies.

"That was other motivation because most of these kids who have learning disabilities, they give up on themselves and like, they really think they can't do it but that had motivated me to show people with learning disability could make it, could do something in life," Juvens explained.

Now he's succeeding in class and making peace in the hallways. Respected by all factions, Juvens is the guy who regularly talks kids out of using violence.

"Almost begging people not to fight. He just doesn't want to see other people get in trouble for something that's not worth it," said Kenny Charlot.

"Before, he was in the middle of those things. If there was something going on, you could count on Juvens being in the middle of it. Now he's in the middle but he's the one breaking it up, saying, 'Hey, let's not do that,'" Drane said.

It's almost as if Juvens is in training now for his career goal.

"I want to be a psychologist. I feel like me being a psychologist, I could help other kids," Juvens said.

Walking the straight and narrow, Juvens Pierre, track star, is on the right track. 

SWAG on 6 (Students Working At Greatness) is a new feature on NBC 6 highlighting students who rise against all odds and continue to succeed.

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