It was grade 8 graduation day for 14-year-old Xavier Jones. But before he could step onto the stage to receive his diploma, he had to take a few thousand steps first to get there.
When his grandfather’s car wouldn’t start, Xavier knew he had to come up with an alternative plan to get to the ceremony which was being held across town. So, he did what most of us do, he turned to Google for help.
“I looked up Harris Stowe University on Google Maps, and then I saw the walking distance, and then I said I could probably make it,” Xavier told News 4. “I wanted to walk across the stage.”
It was a journey that would take him 6.6 miles and over two hours to complete.
Determined Boy Walks Over 6 Miles and Two Hours to Receive His Diploma
But it was a journey he didn’t have to walk alone. Enlisting his brother and a friend for company, the trio trekked through the blazing hot sun, walking from north St. Louis to midtown.
Jones’ mentor, Darren Seals, who works with him at the Sankofa Community Center told KSDK News, “The shoes that he walked in had holes in the bottom, holes in the top. Two-and-a-half-hours walk. A long road, I wouldn’t have walked it.”
He might not have walked it, but Xavier did.
And he made it. Just in time to walk across the stage to receive his diploma from Yeatman Middle School and a standing ovation from the crowd.
But that’s not all the 4.0 grade-point-average student received.
A University Steps Up and Gives Xavier Jones a Free Ride
The president of Harris Stowe State University, Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith, was so impressed by Xavier’s determination that she decided to take a few steps of her own.
“When I heard that story and to see that young man who was so bright and excited and driven, it spoke volumes to me,” Dr. Collins Smith said. “It spoke resilience, persistence, perseverance.” His persistence paid off.
She awarded Xavier with a full-ride presidential scholarship that will cover four years of tuition, books, and fees. It will be waiting for him when he graduates high school.
However, it wasn’t the only “free ride” in Xavier’s future. When word got out about the teen, Miami Dolphins NFL player, Terron Armstead, decided to gift him with a literal ride.
NFL Player Joins Forces With Others to Give Teen a Literal Lift Times Two
Armstead partnered with Ryan Pritchard EV, Bommarito Automotive, and others (including his Miami Dolphins teammate, Tyreek Hill) to give Xavier and his family not one ride, but two.
During a celebrity basketball game at Cahokia High School in the Cahokia suburb of St. Louis, Armstead surprised Xavier with a $5,000 E-bike. But he didn’t stop there. He then gifted the boy and his family with a brand new Honda Odyssey, courtesy of the generosity of Bommarito Automotive.
And while the minivan may not be the NASCAR race car Xavier hopes to professionally drive one day, it’ll definitely get him where he needs to go.
“We hear a story like Xavier. It’s only right. Follow Xavier’s example. He’s a leader whether he wanted to be or not. His story is inspiring. It’s motivating. That’s what leaders do.”
Xavier may only be 14 years old but he’s no stranger to overcoming adversity. Growing up in poverty, his mother passed away several years ago and he and his six siblings are being raised by their disabled grandfather.
Additionally, the teen has sickle cell anemia, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a disorder that affects the red blood cells and can cause fatigue, periodic episodes of extreme pain, swelling, vision problems, and frequent infections.
And yet, despite his challenges, Xavier isn’t about to give up. He continues to put one foot in front of the other and is inspiring others along the way.
“At the end of the rainbow, there’s a pot of gold. I learned a lot from Xavier that day,” Dr. Collins Smith told KMOV. “Even on your worst day keep pressing forward.”
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