2022 Students of Distinction
Jeramiah Dodson’s drive and determination bring succes
Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the 25 Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.
Student: Jeramiah Dodson
School: Global Virtual Academy/Henderson Bay High
Category: Overcoming Adversity
Jeramiah Dodson is a shining example of falling down four times and getting up five. He has had to overcome obstacles all his life, learned from his mistakes and grown into a thoughtful, trustworthy and caring young man with great integrity and resilience.
From a young age, he had to raise himself and his siblings because his mom “was so strung out on drugs all the time and dad was never in my life.”
He struggled in school, was expelled several times, got in with the wrong crowd and, at about age eight, started smoking, drinking and using drugs. He didn’t know any better, because he had no positive role models.
His older brother “on my dad’s side” became something of a role model, even though he was in a gang.
“But he always used to tell me all the time that he envisioned a better life for us.” When the boys decided to leave the gang, they both got beat up. But they were free.
Losing family members
Just when it looked like they might be headed in a healthy direction, the brother was killed by police as he tried to stop a drug bust.
Bouncing for many months between relatives’ homes in Washington and Colorado and couch surfing at friends’ houses, Jeramiah was in-and-out of school, in-and-out of trouble, in-and-out of juvie.
Eventually he went to live with a cousin in the Gig Harbor area, and went to work for his Uncle Robby and Uncle Aaron. He was finally starting to settle in and doing better in school when COVID hit and classes went online.
“I’m used to in-person school,” he said. “When you’re in a classroom there’s a teacher there in class to make sure you’re doing your work. But in online school you’re in a zoom meeting with 20 other kids and one teacher and the teacher can’t monitor your work or even see if you’re working so it’s easy to get away with not doing anything during class. There are so many distractions.”
Still, he kept trying.
Then, on the 4th of July 2021, his world collapsed again. After a fun day with his cousins and uncles – complete with barbecue, a bonfire and fireworks – his beloved Uncle Aaron committed suicide.
“He was the closest thing I ever had to a father. He made me the person I am today and is the reason I got clean and sober, the reason I got off the streets, the reason I had a job and he’s the reason why I want to complete school and go to college. He was my inspiration.”
Over the next weeks and months, Jeramiah-the-teenager had to be rock for all the grieving adults in his family. But during that time, his boss gave him some good advice: “In order to really succeed in life you first have to figure out what you want to do in life, then you figure out the path and the steps you need to get there and then you do it,” Jeramiah said.
Turning tragedy into motivation
Last fall, Jeramiah took advantage of an opportunity through Henderson Bay High School to attend the Global Virtual Academy. It was mostly online, but there were also some in-person classes with a teacher help him with his school work.
“I worked really hard to get all of my missing work done so I could pass all my classes and ended up passing everything except trigonometry — which I got excused from because I wasn’t even taught basic geometry yet,” he said.
“My Uncle Aaron’s passing was my biggest motivation to do better, to want to be better and to strive to be the best person I can possibly be. He saw something in me no one else did and that’s why I want to graduate high school and go to college.”
Jeramiah’s teachers speak highly of him.
“Even though remote learning isn’t his first choice or easy for him, Jeramiah has been very successful in our program,” Global Virtual Academy counselor Annie Schuster said. “He’s a driven person and has proven to be a self-motivated, reliable and charismatic learner. He is fun and genuine… and I have no doubt that he will continue to handle anything that comes his way with courage, grace and a positive outlook.”
GVA resource teacher Melissa Carter added: “Jeramiah takes pride in what he does and makes every assignment his own. He’s a great example of what someone can accomplish when they set their mind to succeed.”
School: Henderson Bay / Global Virtual Academy
Category: Overcoming Adversity Achievement
Parents or Guardians: Jason and Nickie Dowell
Favorite teacher: Melisa Carter. “Mrs. Carter is my learning lab teacher. She has helped me so much with all my classes. She really helped me buckle down last semester to get all my assignments turned in. She’s my biggest motivator right now. She is really kind and sweet and funny and very reliable. This is important because it makes it easier to talk to her.”
Best thing about your school: “The teachers. They all make me feel welcome. They are all super nice and go above and beyond to get me the help I need. They don’t make it too stressful or overwhelming to be successful in school.”