• 37°

Graduation 2016: History of trouble turned around at Henderson

By Rebecca Rider


SALISBURY — Christopher Keller said he was arrested for the first time when he was 13 or 14. At 15, he was transferred to Henderson Independent High School after he got into an altercation with a teacher at Salisbury High School.

“I basically let the anger get the best of me,” he said.

For Keller, now a senior, life was full of pressure. His father, Larry, suffers from bladder cancer, and his mother, Connie, has had multiple neck and back surgeries.

“I basically felt that I had to do a lot on my own,” he said.

Warnings from concerned family members about his behavior and the consequences of his actions “went in one ear and out the other.” And when he got into to trouble with the law, he said, it just kept happening.

“Once you’re in the legal system it feels like you can’t get out,” he said, “you dig a hole, you dig a hole and you can’t get out.”

He would be on probation, paying probation fines and dealing with court on top of school and his home life. The pressure made him crack.

“I was angry at the world,” he said.

In 2014, Keller was expelled from Salisbury High School one week shy of summer break. The next fall, he started school at Henderson. He’d heard a lot of mixed things about Henderson – that it was a school for “the bad kids.” But other people called Henderson “a school for second chances.”

“I was really expecting a new start, wanting a new start,” he said.

And that’s what he got.

His altercation at Salisbury landed him with five charges, including assault against a government official, and Keller spent the summer in and out of counseling and court.

When he arrived at Henderson, the staff continued to help him work on his problems. He said he felt that they cared about him, and genuinely wanted to help. They took the time to learn students’ triggers, and the small class sizes helped them hone in on a student’s learning style.

“They give you more chances, you know what I’m saying, they let you have a chance,” he said.

But things still weren’t easy. Keller said he still got into trouble, and while he was at Henderson he got in trouble again, and found himself in jail, facing adult charges. It was the second time he’d been in jail, and this time, he realized that if he didn’t change, he wouldn’t have a future.

“Once you get locked up it gives you time to think about yourself,” he said.

Keller said he made a decision to “make a stand,” and focused on not letting people make him angry. When someone makes you angry, he said, “They win, you lose.”

A year later, Keller describes himself as a “self-made man.” He finished all of his credits in January, and will receive his high school diploma on June 11. He said he never really thought he’d make it, and knows that if it hadn’t been for Henderson, he probably wouldn’t have.

He was also motivated to succeed from home. His parents were supportive of his education.

“’I’m not going to leave until you graduate,’” he teared up, recalling their words. “It gets into your heart.”

Now, when he tells people he’s graduating from high school, those who know him smile and cheer him on.

“When you see other people smile because of what you did it makes you want to become a better person,” he said.

Keller will be the first member of his immediate family to graduate from high school. He’s excited, but nervous. He knows that graduating means a lot of responsibility will fall on him. It’s bittersweet.

Keller has a job at Il Colosseo in Salisbury, and said he doesn’t have any immediate plans after graduating.

“I have no idea what the future has planned for me,” he said.

But he hopes that, whatever it is, it will help him succeed. And for other kids, who were like him and struggling with anger, the criminal justice system or other issues, Keller said he wanted to let them know that the past is the past, and you can’t take it back.

“The only thing you can change is your future,” he said.

 Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.



Defendant convicted in attempted murder case on the run after fleeing from trial


Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher


Rowan County COVID-19 data for April 15


Rep. Warren’s bill would prohibit parking in electric vehicle charging stations


Historic Preservation Commission approves Integro Technologies expansion, Paint the Pavement project


Faith Academy, RSS will negotiate over what goes, stays in elementary school


Teacher killed in Alamance County shootout with Mexican drug cartel


Bill would give more tax breaks on COVID-19 loans


No response as divers knock on capsized ship’s hull


Quotes of the week


Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs


Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death


‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday


Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county


Shields, Cheerwine Festival receive N.C. Main Street Awards


Duke University launches kidney disease study in Kannapolis for people of African descent


Horizons Unlimited will hold in-person summer camps


Education briefs: Catawba planning for more in-person activities, free summer school tuition


County’s full COVID-19 vaccinations top 22,600

High School

High school golf: With Merrell, Mustangs back on top


Spencer investigating rat problem on South Iredell Street


Livingstone, Mission House Church to host national ‘Black Voters Matter’ listening session




Groundbreaking on Pennant Square signals next phase in downtown Kannapolis revitalization