Augusta, GA -
This May, amid the Pomp and Circumstance...the cheers and tears of joy...in a sea of students...you'll find Jalen Pope, a member of the Class of 2014.
As his senior year winds down, Jalen sails through difficult math problems, but his academic success was never guaranteed.
At an early age, Jalen was diagnosed with a learning disability.
"He started out with literacy issues, speech problems and comprehension issues that stemmed from ADHD," said Jalen's mom, Chazmin Pope.
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and kids who have ADHD find it hard to focus or pay attention. They have trouble completing assignments, and even homework is a struggle since they just can't seem to sit still.
Jalen had all the symptoms.
"I couldn't get him to calm down. When he went to preschool, he really wouldn't comprehend, really go along with the class, but I knew that he understood what was going on," said Chazmin. "I knew he was getting what was going on, he just couldn't focus in class."
His parents tried everything, including medication. Then, when their son was in 5th grade, they took Jalen off the pills and, with the help of his teachers, came up with a plan.
"They pushed him, they didn't let him use this disability as a crutch," Chazmin said.
It worked! Slowly, but surely, he learned how to cope with ADHD and his grades improved.
Today, he's the first to admit, he couldn't have done it without help. "You need help from others to influence you to do better," Jalen said.
It still isn't easy for him. His mom says Jalen still loses his train of thought occasionally, but he just tries even harder.
"Jalen is probably one of the most driven kids I've ever met," said T.W. Josey High School teacher Benjamin Isaac. "He'll ask me for help after school and, if I forget, he's following me out to my car."
This year, his fellow classmates will be following him. You see, Jalen Pope is at the head of the class. He is the Josey High School valedictorian.
"I might cry a little bit, but you know, he's at the top and I'm very, very proud of him," said Jalen's friend, Rakil Williams.
Next year, Jalen will attend the University of Georgia.
"It's been a long prologue and now the real story begins," Jalen said.
Jalen hopes to study veterinary medicine at UGA. His success story should be an inspiration to other parents of learning disabled kids.