Seniors LaShell Carter and Aquan Terrell are about to graduate from Marion C. Moore High School. Although they’re classmates, they don’t know each other; but at the encouragement of their school counselor, they sat down to have a frank conversation about what they each overcame to achieve their goal of graduating high school.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
LaShell Carter: My name’s LaShell Carter. I’m graduating this year; I’m a senior.
Aquan Terrell: My name is Aquan Terrell, and I’m graduating the same year as you.
Liz Schlemmer: What made getting to graduation a challenge for you?
LaShell Carter: I have dyslexia, and so you can be staring at a paper and all the words start jumping around and stuff, and you have to focus a lot.
Aquan Terrell: People like her, my freshman and sophomore year, I probably would have been the one [making fun of her]. I will say I was the bully type.
LaShell Carter: I understand that. Just because I went through [what] I went through, I also did do stupid things that I wasn’t proud of — and everybody does, because we trying to fit in with the world. But what we should be doing is fitting in with ourself. What was challenging for you?
Aquan Terrell: Well, freshman year through sophomore year […] I was hanging around a group of people that was really getting me out of my state of character. Because I grew up not in the best part of Louisville, Kentucky. I think I let my surroundings get the best of me.
It’s not that I didn’t have a good home. It’s just that when my mom would struggle, I would think I would have to go out and do illegal stuff just to get money for her. And the people I grew up with, I tried to follow in their footsteps, and most of it wasn’t good. I think if I would’ve tried to be myself, getting to graduation would have been a lot easier, because things in my past really held me back.
LaShell Carter: What changed?
Aquan Terrell: Really what changed is my junior year I had to leave school because of the way I was behaving. So I went to play football at this new school, and we went to a college visit at IU [Indiana University] and just being around them athletes, some of them was telling me their stories about how they used to act, but they turned their life around. And they was telling me how they look back at some of their friends and some of their friends from the past, [are] still doing the same thing they was doing their freshman year. And I just didn’t want to be like one of them friends. What changed for you?
LaShell Carter: So I ended up moving with my father, and I had to go to a new school, so it was kind of hard. Like I was figuring everything out — who I was. What changed was a lot of teachers didn’t give up on me because I wasn’t doing my work. They had told me that no matter what I was going to do, they was still gonna be there. If I didn’t have my teachers and my counselors and my principal, I don’t think I would have made it through high school.
Aquan Terrell: For real, I thank Ms. Thurman and Ms. Burt, my assistant principals, and then two of my friends, LaRonte and JJ. Because coming from the school I came from, over there, they didn’t really believe in me or they didn’t help me try to get to graduate. They just let me go.
But when I came back to Moore, Ms. Thurman really put her trust in me, for real, for real. Because I came here with a frown when she told me how many credits I [had] — not even enough credits to be a junior, and she told me to pick my face up. She was always on me, making sure I was getting to class, not being in the hallways or hanging around with people that’s not really about to succeed in life. So that’s who I thank, and my friends believed in me to really go and work hard. And now I’m standing here about to graduate.
LaShell Carter: What are you most proud of?
Aquan Terrell: Well, really I’m most proud of just pushing myself and becoming a better person. Because I every time I look back on my past, I just don’t ever want to go back to being that boy again. What are you most proud of?
LaShell Carter: I’m gonna say being a writer. I love being myself, and I’m glad that coming to Moore helped me figure out who I was.
Aquan Terrell: Continue to be you, and be great.
LaShell Carter: I wish you the same.
Carter and Terrell will graduate with their classmates in the Marion C. Moore High School class of 2019 on June 10. Carter plans to attend Kentucky State University to study science and creative writing and Terrell plans to attend barber school at University of Cumberland.