CLINTON — It hard to leave a conversation with 14-year-old Jeffrey Agwaze without a smile on your face and he takes personal pride in that.
Agwaze is an eighth-grade student at Stephen Decatur Middle School who has a personal passion for making people smile. He calls himself a unique student who knows how to have fun while remaining respectful.
“I love making friends. I love being cool with teachers, adults, having great talks with them, playing around,” he said while laughing. “I love seeing a smile on people’s faces.”
Everyone at Stephen Decatur knows Agwaze. He walks down the halls with students and staff both stopping for a high five or short conversation. The school’s principal Charity Magruder and Agwaze’s reading teacher Tammy O’Donnell both describe him as a special student, a natural-born leader and someone they are incredibly proud of.
Agwaze is their perfect example of hard work paying off because, for the school, he is the comeback kid of the century.
“Jeffrey is a gem, and he is letting us know that we are on the right track, that we’re doing it right,” Magruder said.
In his first quarter as an eighth grader, he was playful but unfocused, O’Donnell said.
“Jeffrey was very rambunctious, very playful and at times he would exhaust me,” she said.
But O’Donnell saw his potential, and soon, he saw it too. When his first quarter report card came out, Agwaze looked at the 2.5 GPA in disappointment and vowed he would do better. He met with O’Donnell and began to talk strategy on how he could become a better student.
“In the first quarter, man, I’ll just say I was troublesome. I didn’t take my grades seriously,” he said. “When my GPA came, and I saw a 2.5. It devastated me, and that’s when I came to reading teacher and asked her ‘Ms. O’Donelle, how can I fix this.’”
O’Donnell and Agwaze started goal setting tasks, and Agwaze announced he would make honor roll the next quarter. Things started to change, and everyone began to notice. He started going to lunch meetings, focusing on class work and following his grades on SchoolMax.
When the next quarter finished, he saw he earned a 3.2. He made the honor roll.
Part of the motivation behind improving was to make his teachers and mother proud, but Agwaze said he also wanted to prove to doubters that he could do.
Now his goal is to get a 3.5 GPA or higher and keep up the hard work and progress as he enters into high school. Next year he will attend Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School where he hopes to match the legacy his brother left at the school.
Looking to the future, Agwaze wants to become a doctor, though he is not sure what practice he wants to follow. He wants to help people and still have that same passion for making people smile.
“I want to help people. I love caring for people,” he said. “I want to help people survive, and when they’re in danger, I want to be the one to come to the rescue and help them become fully healed.”
And his teachers see him making a positive impact.
“Jeffrey will do more in the community than we will imagine. He will be more of an influence than he will ever imagine,” Magruder said.