Meet the Students Monday: Demetri Kyles

by Jessica Young  |   


Demetri explained: “[Growing up] I was in foster care. My grandmother adopted me when I was young, but she passed when I was 12, so after that it was kind of rocky. I was going from state to state, living with different family members. My dad was in and out of jail and my mother was addicted to a lot of drugs, so she couldn’t take care of me…I’m not mad. I have always had a home. You know, that’s why to this day I love my family members so much because they helped me a lot throughout my life. So, I try to show appreciation to them, and that gives me the motivation to do what I am doing now. You know, all of that hard work that they did to try to prepare me for my adulthood- I don’t want to just squander it away.”

Demetri moved away and spent his high school years in the Seattle area. He didn’t like being in Seattle and missed Valdez, he said, “…[I]n Seattle, and the area I lived in, there was a lot of gang activity and there was a lot of  bad stuff going on, and I saw a lot of crazy stuff at a young age. Plus, Seattle is a big city, fast life, so people are kinda’ rude down there. Coming up here, they showed me a lot of hospitality; they showed me a lot of love. I was really the only black kid in my school, but they treated me like everybody else. Everybody here treated me like family.”  

Before Demetri moved back to Alaska to pursue his dreams, he was a meat cutter for  six years, but decided that wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.  “I was talking to my grandma [Gladis] and I told her, ‘I’m really not happy being a meat cutter, it’s not bad pay, it’s just not what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ So, she asked me, ‘What do you really want to do? You know, everything in this world is really accessible to you if you work for it.’ Now I am taking the steps to get there.” Before deciding to pursue his goal, he said he felt defeated, like he didn’t have anything to really work for. “I was just going to work and coming home, but now I’m waking up to the fact that I can really do this.”

Demetri’s grandma Gladis attended PWSC in the past and encouraged Demetri to attend. “She told me it was a really good school and that they really care about their students.” One of his favorite classes last semester was Writing Across Contexts with Professor Dennis Humphrey because he allowed students to write about anything they were really interested in. Demetri wrote mostly about one of his passions - basketball.   One of his favorite basketball players is Kobe Bryant. He explained, “When I was younger, I kind of felt like I could relate to Kobe because he said he couldn’t control where he was moving. A lot of people made fun of him because he was a skinny black kid, but one thing he could control was how dominant he was on the basketball court…people loved him on the court. I was short and skinny, I didn’t actually hit my growth spurt until I was a junior, and they made fun of me, and so, yeah, I took it to the basketball court. I’ve been shooting since I was six but I didn’t get really serious until I was about 10.”

Demetri’s love for basketball kept him motivated to do his best in life. Demetri said, “In my freshman year, there were three NBA players from my school who would always come back to the neighborhood and talk to us and give us motivational speeches… and one of my friends plays in the NBA right now. His name is Zach LaVine. I remember back then when we would go out partying, we would try to get him to go with us, but he was like, ‘No, I’m shooting.’ He was very dedicated. I never made it to the NBA but you know I made a good run, though. … it was fun while it lasted… It was a big part of my life, and it gave me something to look forward to… it gave me a reason to keep my grades up, too.”

When Demetri’s not busy studying or attending classes, you can find him playing basketball during the open gym nights at the middle school. Demetri said that while he was living in the lower 48 he was glad to hear from his friends in Valdez, they kept him wanting to come back. “I kept dreaming about it [Valdez]. My friends… we still keep in touch with each other. They would call me and would ask, ‘When are you coming back up here?’, so I really appreciate them. My best friend when I lived here…he’s my best friend now.”