Orlando man mentors at high school he once dropped out of

'I wanted to give back to the same community that I grew up in'

ORLANDO, Fla. – After going down the wrong path, a young Orlando man realized education is the key to success, so he returned to the same high school he had dropped out of. 

At Evans High School, Dalton Joseph shares his experience with AVID students and mentors them so they don't make his same mistakes.

"I was skipping school, showing up to school late, falling asleep in class, leaving school early to get involved in criminal activity, such as breaking into houses," Joseph said. He was 16 at the time. "I threw in the towel and just gave up on education in general."

During that time, he said he had lost hope.

"As I became a teenager, I started questioning it because I was being rebellious. I was like, 'OK, education is that much important, then why doesn't nobody have one?,'" he said.

His father dropped out of high school and his mother didn't further her education, yet they always instilled in him the importance of staying in school.

"My father always used to preach that education was the key to a better life," the 22-year-old said.

It would take a few years and several bad experiences before he could fully understand what his father's words meant.

"When I was working, I started seeing that education provides better opportunities for real, like my dad was saying," Joseph said.

Two years ago, he joined the staff at Evans High School and is now an AVID tutor. 

"I wanted to give back to the same community that I grew up in," Joseph said. "Seeing a lot of my friends die young, be sent away to prison, in jail, I feel like I actually had a second chance at life."

Dalton works alongside AVID coordinator Shontay Blakeney.

"He's one of them, and the passion that he has -- to be able to talk to them and make that difference -- that's what I really appreciate about him coming into my classroom," Blakeney said.

They prepare students for college: teaching them test-taking skills, how to take notes and be better organized. It's part of the AVID program, which stands for advancement via individual determination. 

"Dalton's optimism, his hope, the positive energy that he provides, every day that he's here, it's just people gravitate to him," Kenya Nelson-Warren, assistant principal of Evans High School, said.

One of the people Dalton has impacted is Justin Davidson, an 11th grade student.

"He walked up, he was like, 'Why you not doing your work?' And I told him like, 'It's just not for me. I don't see myself going places,'" Davidson said.

But Dalton didn't let him believe that.

"If probably I didn't hear that story, I probably would still be slacking in school. Now, I feel like I can actually go places and do things as long as I stay on my game -- in school," Davidson said.

In May, Dalton graduated from Valencia College with an associate's degree in general studies and was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Graduate.

He's currently enrolled at the University of Central Florida for human communication and business and professional communication. He also does volunteer work with community outreach nonprofit organizations. 

About the Author: