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8th grader walks 6.5 miles to attend graduation at Harris-Stowe State University

Fourteen-year-old Xavier Jones walked 6.5 miles from north St. Louis to Harris Stowe State University to attend his eighth grade graduation.

ST. LOUIS — The word determination is a noun. It is defined in the dictionary as a “firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end.” A St Louis teenager may very well be the living example of the word.

Xavier Jones, 14, wanted to attend a special ceremony at the end of the school year.

“I wanted to get my graduation and all my awards and stuff,” he told 5 On Your Side.

But the ceremony for Yeatman Middle School was taking place far from his home in north St. Louis, and he had no transportation at the time.

“My grandpa, his car died,” he explained.

So, Jones decided to set out on foot to get there.

“He did what he had to do,” Jones’ mentor Darren Seals said.

Jones walked from his neighborhood all the way to Harris-Stowe State University in midtown St. Louis. The distance was 6.5 miles.

“The shoes that he walked in had holes in the bottom, holes in the top,” said Seals. "Two-and-a-half-hours walk. A long road, I wouldn’t have walked it."

But Jones did not give up. He made the journey.

“(I was) glad I made it there 'cause I didn’t have to walk anymore,” Jones said.

Seals mentors Jones at his Sankofa community center on Emma Street. Seals calls it a safe haven, a place where he tries to help kids make the most of their lives.

“Change the norm, that’s what I tell the kids. Change the norm. No matter if you live a nightmare, never give up,” he said.

He helps Jones understand how being determined is key to making his dream a reality.

“When God gives you a vision in your sleep, you wake up like I can’t do that.  No, you can do it 'cause he gave it to you,” Seals said

Harris-Stowe President Dr. LaTonia Collins Smith learned of Jones’ trek to graduation and decided to help Jones make his dreams come true. She presented him with a four-year scholarship during the ceremony.

“I can get to college without paying for anything,” Jones said.

“I don’t cry," Seals said. "When they were talking about it, I was actually crying."

Jones, who was a 4.0 student as an eighth grader at Yeatman, wants to be a NASCAR driver one day. Seals is committed to helping Jones reach his goal.

“We can do it, most definitely, but we gotta do it has a community,” he said.

Seals believes big things are in Jones’ future. 

“Soon he’ll be great,” he said.

Jones will take the next step in his educational journey next school year when he attends Lift for Life Academy. 

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