JCPS senior graduates after overcoming a young life of tragedy

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Stephon Franklin is a leader at Doss High School, both on the basketball court and in the classroom.

"Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be this kid," Franklin said. "Change is key."

After losing one parent to prison and the other to cancer, Franklin has pushed through tragedy to find his own success story. But even now, the 18-year-old is open about his struggles.

"At the age of 11, in sixth grade, I lost my mom to breast cancer," he said. My dad went to jail when I was 3 years old. And I was just a bad kid getting put out of class."

Raised by family but still dealing with pain, it got to the point that Franklin was in the principal's office several times a day.

"When I first met him, he was angry," Academy Principal Terra Greenwell said. "He was angry about some life situations. He was angry still from losing his mom. He was angry with his dad. And at a certain point, I remember he had a really bad day, and he broke down. He told me all of those things. And I told him I was thankful he let me know that, and it gave me the opportunity to help him get out of it."

That's when Greenwell started giving Franklin every leadership opportunity she could find.

"From that moment on, I just changed," said Franklin, who became a student ambassador while his basketball team headed to a state championship.

But that success wasn't by chance.

"It depends on if you want to let it affect you in a negative way or a positive way," he said. "And I chose to let it affect me in a positive way."

Franklin will graduate Friday with a full ride to Tallahassee Community College to play basketball.

"I have a story similar to a lot of kids," he said. "I'm not the only kid who lost their mom. I'm not the only kid that doesn't have a father figure in their life. It's the way you attack the obstacles."

If his mom could see him now, Franklin said she'd probably say this:

"Keep going son. Keep on going. Keep on pushing. Do it all. Just keep pushing. I'm here every step of the way. I'm right here behind you," Franklin said.

"She's probably right here or somewhere in this room right now watching this interview."

Franklin credits his family and teachers for keeping him on track. But it’s his determination and dedication that paved the path to a bright future, even in the darkest of times.

"You control your own destiny," he said. "That's what I tell a lot of people. Just keep pushing and never give up."

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