“Every day I walk into this school, I try to make the best impression and show my teachers that I’m that guy who’s going to do something great with their life,” says Darryl Buchanan, a freshman in the founding class at Bluff City High School. “I try to make everyone proud.”
Prior to arriving at Bluff City, Buchanan attended Wooddale Middle School. “In sixth grade Green Dot wasn’t affiliated with Wooddale yet, and then it got fun when Green Dot came in my seventh and eighth grade years-- we went on field trips, we did community service together, and the new staff was really focused on students,” said Buchanan. “They didn’t just treat me like a number. They wanted all of us to really succeed.”
As he was considering where to go to high school, Buchanan knew that he wanted to continue to attend a school where the staff genuinely cared about students: “I never wanted to have a mediocre high school experience. I wanted something brand new, where the staff shows you as much love as a parent, and a place that felt safe.” Buchanan found that at Bluff City. “We can be creative here. This is where you can come and succeed in a safe, cool environment.”
A Student Leader
Buchanan has found the opportunities he’s been looking for as a member of the founding class, “At this school, you have the freedom to think for yourself and lead. I’m a Student Ambassador, and I was elected class president. I get to set up meetings with other students and make suggestions about various events and traditions we can have at school.”
Bluff City’s principal, Jonas Cleaves, isn’t surprised that Buchanan has stepped into leadership roles so easily and so well:
“What I really appreciate about Darryl is that he leads by example. When you talk to some of our other scholars who struggle academically, and you ask them who they look up to, they’ll say Darryl. When he speaks, the other students listen.”
Buchanan is also on the yearbook staff, and was voted this year’s Homecoming Prince. “That was one of the best memories of this year for me,” recalled Buchanan. “To be chosen by your peers as a prince, and to make my parents proud was really cool.” But that wasn’t his only highlight of the year; he was also enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in community service opportunities with his peers, attending the local zoo with his class, and visiting local colleges.
Support Through the Obstacles
While Buchanan is a promising young leader that we’re proud to support, it’s the story of what he’s overcome that continues to inspire both his teachers and his peers. “I was going through a bit of a time where money was an issue and having a place to stay was an issue,” recalled Buchanan. “So my teacher Ms. Washington helped me through that period of time because it was sad and depressing. She always said something to cheer me up and make me laugh, and that helped me keep my grades up.”
Cleaves notes Buchanan’s resilience: “He was going through a really tough time, and he never complained. Very early on when I met Darryl, I could tell he was a young man that was more consistent in terms of displaying what it means to be a scholar. You don’t see that very often in ninth graders. You see a lot of kids who want to be part of the cool crowd.”
Developing Personal Fortitude
Cleaves has very intentionally worked on creating a staff and student culture that fosters a joyful resilience and an understanding of the whole student. “We focused on building school culture in our weekly professional development this year,” said Cleaves. “We know our kids can’t choose certain aspects of their lives, so having that awareness has helped us understand that when we have students who walk in at 7:30 a.m. already angry and upset, something is likely going on that caused that, and we’re very intentional on finding out how we can support them.”
The staff at Bluff City remains closely connected as they work to support students who face difficult circumstances outside of school.
“We focus on building personal fortitude in times they may want to give up,” said Cleaves.
“And we’re very intentional so that attitude stays at the forefront of our minds.”
Buchanan is an example of a student who has caught on to the culture of joyful resilience, and he has hopes of spreading the same perspective to others in his community one day. “[My biggest inspiration is] my community. It’s not a bad community, but I think it could be better, and that motivates me a lot. I want to do better for my community and kids to come.” Buchanan plans on going to college and potentially owning a business or going into accounting one day.
As he finishes out the school year, Buchanan hopes that other students in his community will see what he sees in Bluff City--the chance to help build a strong foundation for a school that is preparing all of its students for college, leadership, and life.