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Oakland Scholar Overcomes Poverty, Broken Family On Way To College

(KPIX 5) -- His megawatt smile is what makes this Students Rising Above scholar unforgettable. Jevontae Paul wants to be remembered and known by future generations of Oakland students as a role model.

"When you step on a college campus you don't see African Americans or African American males, so me breaking that barrier is a huge thing for me," the Coliseum College Prep Academy senior said.

For most of his childhood, Jevontae lived with his grandparents. In middle school, his grandfather passed away and the family struggled to pay the bills. Jevontae was flunking classes, but he says mentors here at Coliseum College Prep Academy stepped in.

"The turnaround for me was like, okay, I don't want to be the next one in my family who doesn't graduate high school, said Jevontae. "I need to make a change and make a difference and help my family out."

He took over to cook, clean and care for his grandmother. It was important for Jevontae that he not become another statistic.

"I don't want to live like that, live in poverty, or live in a situation where you always have to look behind your back for anything," he said.

His experiences dealing with others' preconceived ideas about who he is pushed him.

Jevontae went on to say, "It's really hard to come to school or go anywhere without someone calling you ... 'You think you're too smart for yourself,' or "You think that you're too good," and so you have to reflect on yourself."

Which is why this Students Rising Above scholar looks forward to the day when he becomes the first in the family to graduate from college.

"I think it'll open my eyes to the world and I think it'll make me a better person myself," he said.

CCPA Assistant Principal Amy Boyle has been a mentor to Jevontae and has seen him through many of his life's obstacles. "Jevontae has met so many challenges to overcome that he's already got that part settled. So there's nothing that college can throw at him that I don't feel like he's prepared for, mentally or academically," said Ms. Boyle. "He's the quintessential lemonade from lemon situation, like he took his lemons and made some pretty sweet lemonade."

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