Sixteen-year-old Keno Armbrister has gone from finding himself on the edge of the academic cliff at the R.M. Bailey Senior High School, to quoting Confucius, and Roy T. Bennett and other literary giants, to delivering the Motivational Address at the recent Ministry of Social Services annual ‘National Child Protection Month Church Service,’ at Faith United Missionary Baptist Church. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” Armbrister says, quoting Confucius.
A Grade 12 student at the RM Bailey Secondary School, Keno has worked hard, putting in tremendous time, effort and sacrifice, to raise his Grade Point Average (GPA) from a 1.5 in his first Semester in Grade 10 at R.M. Bailey, to the current 3.67 he recorded at the end of the first Semester of Grade 12. He says true success in life begins only when a person makes the commitment to become excellent at what they do. His story drew applause, howls, and screams of appreciation from his schoolmates and students from various other schools attending the Service. It also drew the interest of Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, who delivered the Keynote Address at the Church Service.
“There is no recipe for success, but I will outline three main ways to reach this destination,” the young Master Motivator said. “Believe in yourself, find a mentor, and surround yourself with those who encourage you in positive endeavors.” Keno says his story began as that of a “distracted young man,” who felt that he was just a lowly insect in this big, wide, world. It is his hope that his story will inspire other youngsters – both male and female – who find themselves in similar situations, to achieve success.
He tells the story of a young man (himself) who “coming from an environment where profanity and discouragement were the order of the day, every day,” it was hard to focus. “As a result, it was easy for this young man to believe in, and act upon, the curses that were spoken over his life. Because this young man came from a destitute background, there was no need for school. And so he came to school vexed and took his anger out on the teachers. As a result of this, his first GPA at R. M. Bailey was a 1.5. The young man’s vow was to improve, but the ‘improvement’ was a 1.2.” Showing tremendous determination and courage in the face of overwhelming odds and adversity, Keno worked even harder to turn what could have easily become a familiar, tragic, story, into one of triumph, perseverance, and steadfastness.
The early setback, he said, gave him the resolve and the realization that he was on his way to learning an invaluable lesson — that God created each of us to succeed, and to ignore the “mere humans” who try to bring you down. “I learned that I had to believe in my God-given abilities in order to make room for success. In Deuteronomy 28:13, God himself tells us to proclaim, ‘I’m the head, not the tail. I will win and not fail. I’m above and not beneath; I’ve got the devil under my feet.’” Finding a “great mentor” in his life didn’t hurt either.
“The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines a mentor as one who gives advice or guidance. Proverbs 1:5 advises that: ‘A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.’” Entering Grade 11, Keno was placed in a lower homeroom, which, he said, was a “blessing in disguise” for this is where he met his mentor – Ms. Rochelle Scott. “One lesson to heed when pursuing excellence is to find a mentor to be your guide,” Keno said. “She pushed and motivated me until I saw the best in myself.” Keno said the process was strenuous, painful and long.
“Although the process was strenuous, painful and long, there was a slight improvement, seen in a 1.60 GPA. I felt ecstatic. I felt accomplished. I felt, however, that it was still not good enough. The young man promised his mentor that he would improve tremendously.” With the “loving encouragement of Ms. Scott,” by the end of Grade 11, the young man’s GPA had jumped to 2.90. “Following the advice of this mentor was the best decision I made,” he said. Keno says sometimes the only thing that deters persons from achieving success, is the friends they keep. He said the final step “in becoming excellent, in achieving excellence” is evaluating the company you keep.
“Proverbs 13:20 advises: ‘He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.’ Like leeches, these undercover ‘haters’ drain you of motivation, suck up your drive and leave you empty. “Jesus himself told his best friend Peter: ‘Get thee behind me Satan!’ as soon as Peter told him he did not need to follow God’s word. You will have to cut a couple of dead ends for growth. Nope. I’m not referring to hair. Isolate your friends who are distractions. When so-called comrades want to lead us astray, we must declare: ‘I command you Satan in the name of the Lord, put down your weapons and flee, for the Lord has given me the authority to walk all over thee.’” With that as his mantra heading into the first semester of Grade 12, the determined young man avoided social media, “broke-up” with discouraging friends, and studied diligently, all in an effort to increase his grade point average even further.
Report Card Day came.
“This young man who stands before you today moved from a GPA of 1.5 to achieve a 3.67 GPA,” Keno said to the delighted screams and howls of schoolmates and students from other schools attending the Child Protection Month Church Service.
“The Principal’s List! The highest GPA in the twelfth grade! The taste of success was sweet! I am ravenous for more! I want all of you to savor your own achievement. It does not matter where you start, but indeed where you finish. One lesson you can learn from my story is that your beginning does not determine your destination. Remain focused, and do what you have to do. Seek a positive mentor to lead, motivate and encourage you. Isolate your friends that are distractions.”
Keno says his story is “not a unique one.”
“We all have challenges; we all have potential; we all have what it takes to be a success. Complete all assignments, and turn them in on time. Moreover, you will have to pull up some of those F’s to C’s, D’s to C’s, C’s to B’s, B’s to A’s. I guarantee you, by the end of the term, you’ll be extremely proud of what you have achieved.
“I leave with this Roy T. Bennett quote that inspires me: ‘Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of much more than you can imagine.”