Four years ago, Marshawn Jones joined the Rainier Valley Leadership Academy as he embarked on his high school journey. As he prepares for the next steps on his journey he reflects back on the past four years and offers advice for those just getting ready for high school.
“Don’t be too nervous about who you are going to be friends with or how life is going to be. It will fall in place,” Marshawn says. “Don’t rush it. Don’t do it just to get a C grade, try your best.”
Focusing on academics and friends
“I’m most proud of my academic achievements and getting high grades,” says Marshawn as he prepares for graduation. “I’m also proud of the friends I’ve made at school, too.”
One of Marshawn’s favorite classes was 11th Grade English. “Our teacher made the class very interesting – I was engaged and I wanted to try hard. She made the different topics interesting and helped me focus. I used to struggle focusing in class, but she helped me with that by being there next to me, asking me what I was thinking and helping me develop my own methods for staying focused.”
As Marshawn grew as a student, he turned to music to help him focus. “I don’t just listen to chill music. If I’m happy, I like to listen to remixes or raps or something upbeat. If I have a headache, I’ll listen to something more chill. It’s a spontaneous choice and it helps me focus on my work.”
Marshawn is thankful for the community of support he found at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy – staff, teachers and students. “They really cared about everyone’s education because it’s a smaller school and each student could be focused on,” he says. “The school offered everything they can to help us. My friends at school also helped make class more interesting and homework easier. I know my friends at high school might stick around for the rest of my life and I’m thankful to have met them because high school is better if you aren’t trying to do everything solo.”
“Oh, that’s cool. I’m not really alone here.”
“Before I started at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy, there weren’t really a lot of kids that looked like me at my old school,” shares Marshawn. “It was mostly kids who were white. At my high school, there were more kids that looked like me and it felt more like home when I went to class.”
“It’s not that I wasn’t connected to other students at my old school,” Marshawn continues. “But when you see other students, teachers and staff like you, you don’t feel like an outlier. You don’t feel alone. It helped me feel more comfortable just being myself.”
This sense of community at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy supported Marshawn’s academic journey, as well. “Since I felt more comfortable, I could learn more about what I want to do with my life. It helped me develop passions and put me on track.”
What comes next for Marshawn?
“I’m considering going to Seattle Central to get started,” Marshawn says. “I might want to work as an electrical engineer and I can start studying for that at Seattle Central before transferring to a four-year university. I have some friends and family who are engineers and I think it’s a really cool job that is hands on.”
Marshawn has other interests, too, that he may pursue. “I’m also thinking about going into a flight school to become a pilot,” he says. “I’ve flown before with an instructor and I really enjoyed it. My grandpa served in the Air Force as a pilot and that’s part of my inspiration, though I don’t want to join the service myself.”
When he’s not in class, Marshawn likes to hang out with friends and toss around a football. He also enjoys playing video games and recently beat Elden Ring, an open-world game famous for its beauty and difficulty. As he approaches his graduation this Spring from high school, we join Marshawn in celebrating his success at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy. Like any accomplishment worth pursuing, it came with some difficulty and some help from his community that he discovered along the way.