When Site Coordinator, Regina Gibson “Ms. Gina”, met Natkwon he was starting his second senior year at his fourth high school and he seemed hesitant to put a lot of trust into his relationships. He had learned about Communities in Schools of Philadelphia through other young parents participating in its teen parent initiative and since Natkwon is a dedicated father of two toddlers, a boy and a girl, he felt the parenting support would be a good opportunity for helping him balance responsibilities and goals.
When Natkwon learned he would become a father, he did not let it deter him. He continued in school and tried to work towards a future playing sports in college. Influences in his environment, negative messages, and relationships sometimes drew him towards the streets. Sometimes he struggled to stay on track. There were times when he felt he should just quit school and start earning money to support his children. Friends of his were arrested, and then his brother was shot which forced him to seriously focus on his future. He did not have many adults to give him positive guidance but he felt he has a different mindset and was not going to give up on his dream of being known as a great football player and role model.
Natkwon decided early on that if he couldn’t count on his father supporting his love of football that he would need to teach himself. He would wake up early to run and work out until he could make it onto a football team. One summer he had no transportation to get to his team’s practices. He decided to put his daughter in her stroller and together they would make the daily trek to the practice field on foot where a coach would help him watch his daughter during drills. When Natkwon describes the hour-long walk each way he says it “really only felt like 20 minutes because my daughter and I would play and make the most of the time.”
Football became his motivation and he was able to start identifying supportive influences like a few coaches, his aunt, and his daughter’s mother who sometimes had to sit in the rain or snow to cheer him on at every football game one year. Natkwon knew he had found his passion but still struggled to see how he could pursue it in the future.
CIS Site Coordinator, Ms. Gina, and Natkwon sat down to establish some goals including improve academics, enroll his daughter in daycare, apply to College, and get accepted to the Gattica Club Football Program (a junior college program designed to get student athletes recruited to a 4 year NCAA school). Ms. Gina worked throughout the school year to build trust with Natkwon and now he says she is “a major part of my success and she keeps me on my feet. She really broke things down step by step so I could accomplish all my goals.”
Natkwon has been accepted to Mercer County Community College and will be the first in his family in college. He has been accepted into the Gattica Program. He currently travels to New Jersey from Philadelphia for football practice 4 days per week in addition to his high school schedule. He takes his daughter to and from daycare daily. Despite this busy schedule, Natwkon also makes sure to spend quality time with his son on weekends. Site Coordinator, Ms. Gina, says “in the past year, Natkwon’s motivation has stayed really high and he improved by 2 letter grades.” He is thriving in his final year of high school at Camelot Excel Academy and his support system continues to grow there.
When Ms. Gina talks about Natkwon’s success this year she applauds him for meeting the goals he set for himself this year, but she is most inspired by the tremendous progress he has made in trusting others and building relationships.
Natkwon’s ultimate dream is to come back to his community after a career in professional football and establish a recreation center or park where he can inspire other young people, giving them a place and a support system to help them achieve their dreams. He knows first-hand how important that support can be.