AURORA, Colo. — Kaden DeVault says without the pandemic, he might not be where he is today, preparing to graduate from Gateway High School next month.
He struggled through much of his earlier high school career after his older brother was murdered.
“I just wasn't motivated. I quit basketball and I loved basketball,” DeVault said.
With his falling grades, DeVault wasn’t eligible for sports his sophomore and junior years. He almost dropped out of school.
“My brother had dropped out of high school, and I was like, well, if he can do it, I can do it,” DeVault said.
But things changed during his junior year.
Ron Fay had just started his first year as Gateway’s principal, and he noticed the struggling student.
“I’m interested in stories, first and foremost, because when we get to share our stories, we share a part of ourselves,” Fay said.
Fay and the staff at Gateway knew DeVault’s behavior in school was an expression of his pain and personal struggles, not his abilities.
DeVault participated in alternative programming with the school, and developed relationships with teachers like Jordana Reilly. She helped him use his passion for sports to improve his performance in school.
“I think this year people started treating him differently and he started to see himself differently and he became more confident,” Reilly said.
DeVault regained his eligibility for sports during his senior year and played both basketball and football. This month, Gateway’s football team went to the state championship for the first time in the school’s history. It was a shining moment for DeVault, but he looks back on this entire year and sees only the silver linings.
“Without (the pandemic), I probably wouldn't have graduated. I was missing so many credits and I had no other choice but to do my work and get back on track,” DeVault said.
He didn’t fail a single class this year and earned the first “A” in a class of his high school career. DeVault is looking forward to attending college next year and is grateful to be able to graduate in-person, with his friends and family watching.
After a tough year, he has this message for the class of 2021: “We made it. Don't let nothing stop you from your goals in life. Keep pushing, keep striving and class of 2021, we’re the best.”