As a defensive lineman for the West High School football team, DeVore Solomon understands challenges.
“You’re tired, you’re sweaty, you want to stop, you want to lay down, you want to drink water, but for your brothers you’ve got to keep going,” he said. “For the other people that you love, you’ve got to keep going.”
That understanding of sacrifice and persistence has helped shape him, but Solomon began learning those lessons even before he got to West. The rising senior has been part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley since the third grade and says that organization has helped make him a better person.
Shortly before the end of the school year, Solomon was honored with the organization’s Buck and Linda Vaught Gift of Hope Award as the Youth of the Year.
Bart McFadden, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs, said Solomon has a personality that lights up a room and has taken advantage of every program offered by the club. “He’s gotten a comprehensive experience and through the course of that he’s been able to figure out what he’s good at, what he’s interested in … so ultimately he’ll be able to fulfill his potential and find his niche in the world,” said McFadden.
Solomon said he started attending club activities at the urging of his mother, who felt it would provide a safe and positive environment. Through the club he met several mentors who were willing to invest in him, whether that meant tough love or spiritual instruction.
“They just saw that I could be a better person,” he said.
Among other things, Solomon has participated in the club’s YouthForce program, which connects teens with local businesses for training and development, and in the Pipeline program, which has coordinated college visits to campuses including East Tennessee State, Clemson and Lincoln Memorial.
Solomon said he’s learned the importance of love, support and hustle through the club and that his mentors have always inspired participants to work hard.
“They don’t praise talent,” he said. “You can have tons and tons of talent, you can be talented at whatever it is you’re trying to do – write music, play sports, schoolwork … But they praise effort. Because at the end of the day, that’s what life is based on when it comes to success, is how much effort you put in.”
Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.