JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - So many students face obstacles both in and out of school that affect their road to getting a high school diploma. But one local student overcame adversity and took an inspirational journey.
Darrious Hamilton admits from an early age in school, he was a class clown. But while his laugh was contagious, he wasn't catching on when it came to his school work.
"I was a bad child. In fourth grade, I was on my fourth suspension, then I got expelled," Hamilton says.
He was held back, and by the time Hamilton reached eighth grade, things weren't much better.
"The LEAP, I didn't pass it," Hamilton says. "And because of my age, I was too old to go back. I just refused to go back."
He got a waiver to go to Higgins High School on the west bank. But he says he was told because of his academics, he wouldn't be able to earn a regular four-year diploma, called Core-4.
Principal David Lewis says Hamilton wouldn't take no for an answer.
"It was non-stop," Lewis says. "There wasn't anything that was going to stop him."
Hamilton says, "For four years, I just knew this wasn't the end. I just knew I was going to get a regular Core-4 diploma."
He went about his business, taking the right classes and getting involved in extra-curricular activities. He even joined the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Band of Excellence.
John Summers, the band's director, says Hamilton has stood out since joining the band in 2013.
"He's really changed tremendously to the point where we even made him band captain. He's something else," Summers says. "He gets in front of the kids and they give him the utmost respect."
People close to Hamilton could see his transformation was underway.
"Phenomenal. Phenomenal. He's a leader," Lewis says. "He always had belief, but he saw the light."
That might be an understatement. Hamilton was slowly realizing his calling in life.
"I would have my bible in my backpack, and I wasn't supposed to have it, so I would kind of hide it. I wasn't preaching to nobody, but people would come to me."
He remembers sophomore year, a fellow student approached him on his way to lunch.
"She stopped me in the hallway, grabbed my hands and said please pray for me. I asked her if she believed in God and she said yes, so we prayed with our eyes closed and everything. It was at that moment when I realized how much of an impact I was having. People were watching me throughout school. And now it's a major impact because everybody calls me Rev. I don't even know my name anymore. Around school, they say Darrious and I say who's that?" Hamilton laughs.
He says, "People were telling me, you're going to be a preacher one day. I'd say oh, I don't know about that. Then maybe a year ago, I told my pastor, I believe I'm called to preach. He said ok, are you sure? Then go back and pray. I said wait a minute! I just told you I was called to preach."
At Mt. Herman Baptist Church in Avondale a few months ago, "Rev" would become the youngest person to ever deliver a sermon there.
This weekend, at the age of 20, he will be the oldest graduate in Higgins High School class of 2015.
That's something Principal Lewis calls difficult in a school of nearly 1500 students.
"Because you are around children, many of them who are 14 years old," Lewis says. "But Darrious was determined. He didn't care what his peers thought of him. Many people didn't know he was that age, because he had that Benjamin Buttons thing going on. But when I was telling people his story, they couldn't believe it. You'd never know it. He has that youthful energy in him. I don't ever want that to go away from him."
Hamilton says his motivation through it all came from his grandmothers. He still lives with the grandmother who raised him. And he remembers one of his last conversations with his great grandmother, who recently passed away.
"She was a big inspiration. She told me on her death bed, I've been really trying to help you complete school. That's what she told me with tears in her eyes and tears in my eyes," Hamilton says. "And I was like, ok I'm going to do this, not knowing she was going to pass away that soon. I really wanted her to stay around for graduation, but you know God had other plans."
Now, Hamilton feels he is ready for graduation and beyond. He's waiting to hear whether he's been accepted to Dallas Baptist University.
"I'm just hoping and praying they give me a call or send a letter or something that says you're accepted," Hamilton says. "If they do, I will run around my whole neighborhood with tears in my eyes because this is the school I can really see myself in."
He has a message to other students faced with obstacles along the way.
"Ignore the negativity and focus only on the positive. Never give up. Be persistent," says Hamilton. "If one door closes, then start looking for the other door. Always keep God on your mind. Always find someone to inspire you."
Hamilton and the Higgins class of 2015 will graduate May 16.