Sunday, 16 August 2020 19:29

Gatewood uses personal story of high school, college to inspire pupils

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Richmond graduate Jared Gatewood (2008) will begin his first assistant principalship this school year at Forest Hills High School. Richmond graduate Jared Gatewood (2008) will begin his first assistant principalship this school year at Forest Hills High School. Contributed photo.

MARSHVILLE — Get knocked down seven times, stand up eight. That’s the mantra of one Richmond Senior High School alumni who is now preparing for his first year as an administrator.


Jared Gatewood, a Hamlet native who graduated from Richmond in 2008, was hired this summer to serve as one of Forest Hills High School’s three assistant principals.

Getting to his new administrative position with Union County Schools wasn’t a smooth journey, and Gatewood wants his current and future students to know that, especially as the educational arena prepares to enter unchartered waters this fall. 

Gatewood, 30, isn’t shy about letting students know about his trials and tribulations leading up to this point in his career, and he’s using his message to inspire his pupils.

He was kicked out of college not once, but twice. However, Gatewood refused to let the odds beat him, and now he will help hundreds of Yellow Jacket students begin remote and virtual learning this fall.

At the end of his sophomore year of high school, Gatewood had a 4.0 GPA and was a lineman on the Raider football team. Things were going well, but then, he said, he began to not hold his studies to such a high regard.

“During the second semester of my junior year, I became apathetic toward my schoolwork,” Gatewood explained. “I was very defiant and couldn’t be told what to do. 

“That goes back to the dynamic with my father, who was not around and addicted to drugs,” he continued. “It’s a pretty tough existence for anybody around someone addicted to drugs, especially children. I had a lot of anger built up inside me.”

During his senior year at Richmond, Gatewood began taking dual-enrollment classes at Richmond Community College. But he didn’t go to class. His grade point average slipped to a 2.8 by the time he graduated and was actually placed in a physical education class at Richmond because he was cutting class so often.

“My teachers said my potential was unlimited, but I just wouldn’t do my work,” he said. “A lot of them commented that I needed to mature some, but I was too caught up in my own way.”

In Aug. 2008, Gatewood enrolled as a political science major at UNC-Greensboro. Little did he know it was the start of a nearly six-year long journey to get his undergraduate degree. He wouldn’t graduate from UNCG until May 2014.

Within a week of graduating high school, Gatewood’s mother lost her house. He said going to college while his mother was homeless made him feel guilty, so instead of going to class, he sat in his dorm. When he did go, he made As on assignments, but he ended the semester with Fs in all of his classes.

Gatewood managed to receive retroactive grade drops for all of those classes, but was put on academic probation during the spring semester of his freshman year. In order to stay enrolled, he needed a 2.0 GPA in the spring.

By semester’s end, he found himself back home in Richmond County, removed from the university because he failed to meet the criteria of his academic probation.

“While I was home the first time, I worked full time at Speedway and even worked the overnight shift on weekends,” Gatewood explained. “It was one of the most humbling experiences because it was embarrassing for people to see me there asking why I wasn’t in school.

“I wouldn’t tell them the truth,” he added. “I was going to RichmondCC full time, but that also motivated me to go back to school.”

Gatewood’s second try at UNCG wasn’t much different from his first, although he did try harder. He entered with a 0.4 GPA and was required to pass 67 percent of his classes in order to remain a student. 

He attended classes year round, and said his fall and spring semesters were “better.” During a summer session, he took three classes but failed to complete one of them. Here he learned that “colleges don’t round up,” and that he technically only passed 66.6 percent of his courses.

So, back to Richmond County he went after he again failed to meet the requirements of his academic probation. He continued taking courses at RichmondCC.

This time he got a job at Food Lion thanks to manager Ron Davis. Gatewood said Davis “saw me at my lowest but never gave up on me. (Davis) motivated me to continue to try, and I have to thank him for that.”

As he continued to work on improving his grades, Gatewood learned he’d have to reapply to UNCG and wait an entire semester before he could return.

The third time was a charm — Gatewood went back to Greensboro, got off probation and even made the dean’s list his last semester.

“It wasn’t easy, but I graduated with a 3.08 GPA, and that’s the GPA I’m most proud of,” Gatewood said. “I did that for my mom, and she has my bachelor’s degree. I wanted her to know I wasn’t going to give up, and I became the first four-year college graduate in my family.”

Fresh out of college, Gatewood was hired as a teacher at Harding University High School (Charlotte) in Aug. 2015. He taught there until June 2018.

Following that school year, Gatewood moved to Forest Hills High School at the start of the 2018-2019 school year. A summer prior, he began working on his online master’s degree in educational leadership through Wingate University.

Just over two years of work saw him graduate with his master’s degree and a 3.8 GPA, all while teaching full-time, driving over 120 miles a day round trip to work and raising a newborn daughter with his wife Kimberly.

During his two years in the classroom at Forest Hills, Gatewood was “blessed to be chosen” to create and teach the only African American studies class in Union County. He said that the course will continue to be taught even though he’s now an administrator.

“I know someone is out there going through the same thing I went through,” Gatewood said. “A lot of kids go to college not knowing the demand of college life, and unfortunately find themselves back in Richmond County or home. 

“It’s demoralizing to go to college and go back to where you're trying to leave,” he continued. “So, I tell my students my story on the first day of school. If they didn't know me, they wouldn’t think I got kicked out of school twice. I tell them it doesn’t matter when you finish, it matters that you finish.”

Gatewood will start his administrative career under head principal Dr. Kevin Plue, and alongside assistant principals Courtney Lisk and Rebecca Kiker. He said if he can be “half the AP that Lisk and Kiker are, I’d be thankful and know I’m doing something right.”

Acknowledging education is often a thankless job, Gatewood called it one of the most noble professions in the world. Proud to be a part of the education community, Gatewood is also making sure he makes an impact on his kids, virtually or otherwise.

“Everyone has that one teacher who always impacts their life,” Gatewood said. “I want to impact  and mentor all of our kids, but I specifically want black kids to see someone that looks like them doing that.

“I’m excited to get started as an administrator, and I think that some of the ideas I have can go a long way,” he added. “I want to be sure we’re teaching the whole child, not just a name associated with a score. If we do that, all of our students will be better people.

“I want to help build a school that helps kids reach their highest potential, and help get them ready for the world.”

Pulling from his experience as a high school, undergrad and graduate student, Gatewood wants all students, whether in Union County or at his alma mater, to know one final message. 

“If you need help, reach out to somebody,” Gatewood shared. “There’s always hope, and by that I mean if you believe that you can make a better life for yourself, it can happen. Put the work in to do it because excuses don’t cash checks. Let that be fuel to drive your car to success.”

Longterm, Gatewood said one of his professional goals is to become the first black head principal at Richmond Senior High School.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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