Hiawatha Clemons III said his success overcoming life's obstacles come from his persistence, accountability and hard work.
His self-written story, titled "From Counted Out to Counted On," appeared recently in John Schlimm's "Stand Up!: 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World and How You Can, Too!"
According to the book's description, "each story showcases the most dynamic young men and women who share their extraordinary experiences in changing the world for the better."
Clemons credits Caitlin Harvey-Roussin of The Mission Continues charity for encouraging him to submit his story to Schlimm.
Clemons wrote about how he was labeled "emotionally disturbed" and identified as a special education student in middle school.
"I endured a lot of ridicule directly and indirectly," he wrote. "Being looked at as inferior can sometimes become a way of life for a special education student."
Schlimm was moved by how Clemons conquered the labels he faced to gain his education.
"Hiawatha is one of those rare and courageous people whose unique brand of inspiration and compassion reminds you that the future is, indeed, very bright," Schlimm said.
Clemons said he was honored to be in Schlimm's book. "I have been truly appreciative of the stories included in the book," he said.
Clemons graduated from Tidewater Community College in August 2012 with two associate degrees.
Emanuel Chestnut Jr., director of Military Student Support Services, was Clemons' faculty advisor when he attended TCC.
"At TCC, Mr. Clemons persevered and accomplished academically and personally despite the barriers he had to overcome. Through it all, he has grown to become the person he is today," Chestnut said.
Currently, Clemons is enrolled as a senior at Old Dominion University carrying a 3.9 GPA. He will graduate in May with a degree in Human Services.
Daniela Cigularova, associate director of student enrollment and success at ODU in Virginia Beach, thinks very highly of Clemons. "I am personally honored to be involved in supporting Hiawatha as he fulfills his dreams. His passion for and commitment to learning are contagious," she said.
Not only is Clemons grateful for the help he has received during his studies at TCC and ODU, he is thankful for his parents and their support.
"My mother is a very spiritual person," Clemons explained. "Each day she preaches to me and reminds me to keep God first in my life. My success has been a true blessing from God."
Upon graduating, Clemons hopes to use his degree as a guidance counselor or special education teacher.
Scott Mathews, firstname.lastname@example.org