Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — To say that Wakil Harrison gets a tad upset when he doesn’t make an A on his report card is an understatement.
But there have been very few times when the 15-year-old has gotten worse than a B.
Wakil, who is on the baseball and football teams at Salisbury High, has been nominated to participate in three summer leadership programs.
His mother, LeTonya Sockwell, is proud of her studious eldest son, despite the challenges of having a father who has been incarcerated for much of the teen’s life.
His father, William Harrison, was 15 when he was arrested for selling drugs. The Post featured him in a July 2011 article about juvenile offenders whose crimes escalate. He is set to be released next year, in time to see his son graduate.
“He’s the same age as his dad was then. He’s the total opposite of what his dad was back then,” Sockwell said.
She said although William has been in prison on and off, he keeps up with his children and is quite proud of his oldest.
“Not many kids stay on the right path,” she said.
William tells his son to “stay focused” and not to “worry about what people say.”
“He says to ‘keep it moving,’ ” Wakil said.
Wakil also is a Boy Scout with his younger brother, who convinced him to join, and is a part of a men’s mentoring program called First Family, which was started by Livingstone College alumni.
His grade point average is above 4.0 and by the time he graduates high school, he will be a certified nursing assistant and could finish a year early.
His ultimate goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Sockwell says Wakil and her other children — Jalieha, 14; Ikey, 12; and twins Evian and Devian, 7, are all “good kids.”
“You don’t hear too many good things about the kids in the community and what they are doing,” Sockwell said.
In, Wakil will attend the three-day Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference at Salem University.
He was told he was nominated by teachers and guidance staff, but said he isn’t sure who actually did it.
Wakil was also nominated to participate in the National Young Leaders Conference, a program offered through the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.
The conference offers students the opportunity to discuss current issues with the people who shape policies and laws.
While in Washington, Wakil hopes to tour Johns Hopkins University. He’d like to study medicine there or at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Wakil is hoping to also attend the People to People ambassador program, a summer abroad program designed to immerse students in other cultures, meet local families, teach them new languages and meet government officials.
Unbeknownst to Wakil, he was nominated by someone at the school to be a part of the program. He and his mother don’t know who nominated him for that program, either.
“There’s always somebody that you don’t know, someone who is keeping an eye out for you. Someone you don’t know may bless you,” Sockwell said.
The cost is $7,200 for the summer program, which will also garner Wakil high school and college credits.
He, along with 15 to 20 other students throughout the region, will spend time in Italy, France and Greece from June 29-July 19.
The cost pays for tours, meals, and room and board.
Wakil doesn’t know if other students from Rowan County are attending the program.
“We get access to places that even tourists don’t go. We have to do a journal and write what we bought and who we saw,” Wakil said.
His plans once he returns home are to share with other students in a formal presentation about his summer experiences.
Wakil has been assured he and the others would definitely learn from the experience and “come back different,” he said.
Sockwell, who lost her job at Freightliner, was able to pay for the leadership conferences with help from her brother. But the cost of the ambassador program trip to Europe is an expense she is unable to foot on her own.
She is a substitute teacher and attending night school. Sockwell is also hoping to get her job back at Freightliner as the company expands production.
Wakil and his family are asking for the community to help.
“It’s something he’s worked hard for, and you don’t want to say no. You don’t get opportunities like this,” Sockwell said.
She’s confident everything will fall into place.
With everything that’s happened with his father, Wakil said he’s excited about his upcoming trips.
“I’m excited that I get to do this stuff. There’s not many people that get to do this,” he said.
For more information about the People to People ambassador program or to donate to Wakil Harrison, log onto Enter the student’s last name (Harrison) and delegate ID (10154118).
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.