School has become a solace for Warren King, a 13-year-old boy living in the Parkland Apartments in Southeast D.C. He has seen more tragedy in his life than most adults.
King said he dives into his work and activities at Johnson Middle School, which is about an eight minute walk from his home, so he doesn’t think about the hardship he’s facing — and it’s is paying off.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine in September honored the eighth grader with a Right Direction Award, which recognizes local youths who show self-improvement and serve as role models to other children while giving back to their communities.
Winners received certificates and a copy of Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration. This year, 34 children won the third-annual award.
According to Cameron Windham, community engagement coordinator for Racine’s office, the office was not only impressed with King’s story of redemption, but with who he is as a young man.
“We were moved by his story and what he’s overcome,” Windham told the AFRO.
The mild-mannered teenager aspires to be a computer engineer when he grows up, and said he wants to work as an IT intern in Racine’s office next summer, a move that will give him valuable experience in the tech world.
“It’s important for what I want to do so I can be successful,” King told the AFRO.
King was born in Riverdale, Md. and bounced between there and the District while his father served a stint in prison. In 2015, his 32-year-old mother died of breast and lung cancer, so King lived with multiple family members, which meant he had to transfer schools.
When King arrived at Johnson Middle School for sixth grade, he had a difficult time adjusting. He was suspended for fighting and his grades took a nosedive.
Today, things are looking up for the teen.
His father, Gregory, has since been released from prison and moved to the District. King lives with him and four siblings in a two-bedroom apartment. King maintains a 3.38 grade point average — on a 4.0 scale — and tutors classmates in Algebra, reading and Spanish. He is also on the school honor roll and his test scores are improving, Lavanya Poteau, the school’s director of strategy and logistics, told the AFRO.
She nominated King for the Right Direction Award because he’s always looking out for others. In her nomination form, she recalled watching King volunteer to carry an elderly woman’s food all the way home from the Capital Food Bank.
“The woman hesitates and then acquiesces,” Poteau wrote on the nomination form. “She informs him that the bags are heavy as they walk to her home. He nods, smiles and lets her know it’s OK. Helping her is nothing new to Warren; he is used to being responsible and looking out for others.”
At school, staff said they often select King as an ambassador at events because he’s always willing to help and understands the tasks at hand. He acts as a mediator to help resolve student disputes and is enrolled in a program that teaches him about life skills and grooms him for college.
King said he doesn’t like dwelling on the past and has his sights set on the future.
He’s enrolled in D.C. Public Schools’ middle school study abroad program, which takes eighth graders on fully funded trips for a week.
King doesn’t yet know where he will go, but sample trips listed on the website take students to Costa Rica, Spain, Ecuador, China, Paris and other destinations.
“Warren was definitely one of those students we could see moving forward,” Poteau said.