By Gayle Pollard-Terry
Office of Communications

This is part of a series of stories about outstanding members of the Class of 2016.

Earl Nevils III personifies perseverance.

Overcoming a series of ups-and-downs with the help of a strong teacher-mentor and the discipline of football, Nevils will be graduating today from Dorsey High School. In the fall, he’ll attend Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach, Fla. He is considering a career as a psychologist or, perhaps, an attorney.

“I’m really interested in communications, relationships and human interaction,” he said.

By his own admission, Nevils faced many obstacles in high school and wound up with a less-than-perfect GPA.

“Football kept me in school. Throughout the years, every semester I played football, I managed to make the honor roll,” Nevils said. Football kept me working toward something. The coaches said, ‘You football players need to be the leaders in the class. You need to sit in the front, everyone looks up to you. Show your Dorsey Don Pride.’ They taught us we are students first and athletes second. That’s why they call us student-athletes.

“Once football season ended, that’s when the roller coaster began,” he said. “That’s when I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. I was misled by peer pressure, but I ended up learning that peer pressure can easily take you out of character.”

By his sophomore year, he didn’t have the grades to play football. However, chemistry teacher John Sims recognized his potential and reached out to the struggling student.

“When I had him in chemistry class, he always responded intelligently, above and beyond the other students. I had a long talk with him about what he wanted to do,” Sims said. “Although he doesn’t always put in all the effort, he’s really intelligent.”

Nevils got into trouble his second semester of 10th grade and transferred to another school. After making his case to the principal. Dr. Reginald Sample, Nevils was allowed to return to Dorsey.

“When he came back, he looked me up and I extended myself to him,” Sims said. “I talked to the principal and got approval to mentor him.”

In addition to providing Nevils with support and guidance, Sims also encouraged him to play golf for Dorsey, which captured the league championship. His grades improved, and he was back on the football team for his senior year.

“I made the honor roll,” Nevils said. “I should have been on the honor roll all four years.”

Despite his spotty academic record, Nevils was determined to graduate. He applied to historically black colleges and universities, and was accepted to Bethune-Cookman, St. Augustine’s University, Florida Memorial University, Norfolk State University, Miles College, Talladega College, Texas College and Fisk University.

“I really like history,” Nevils said. “I’m interested in learning more about Mary McCleod Bethune,” the extraordinary educator, civil rights leader and adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt who went on to found the college he’ll attend.

Nevils is waiting for information on his financial aid package, and he’s not afraid to take loans. “I figure, I’m betting on myself. I’m willing to do what I need to do, especially if I take out a loan. I’ve got to be consistent.  I plan on being successful, so I can pay it back.”

He’s also determined to get away from L.A.

“I figure if I get out of L.A. and do something for myself, not only can I create a path for myself and my family, I can create a path for someone else who got into trouble,” Nevils said. “I can lead by example.”