It’s safe to assume 13-year-old Xavier Ross didn’t initially set out to be a leader among his peers. In fact, in his words, when he was in 6th grade, “I wasn’t used to following rules, I was pretty immature and I got in trouble a lot.”
But then, after more time at The Academy, the middle school run by Jericho’s Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries, Xavier began to grow and mature – as a student, and in his faith.
“In 7th grade, I started to understand about rules and about paying attention in class, and I started to grow closer to Christ,” he said. “By 8th grade, I found out was in the running for valedictorian of my class, so I stepped it up.”
And step it up, he did; Xavier graduated in June as The Academy’s valedictorian, with a 3.94 GPA in 8th grade, and 3.76 for all three years.
What’s even more enlightening about his journey so far is that, when he reflects on his recent week at YoungLife Danbury’s basketball camp, he says one of the best things about it was that, because he already knows a lot about Jesus, “I could help my friends understand it more. People look up to me because I get good grades and I try to help people,” Xavier said.
“Xavier has clearly demonstrated his natural ability to be a leader,” said Everette Hutchins, Headmaster of The Academy. “People are drawn to him. God has blessed him with a gift and it's my prayer that within his high school years he learns how to use this gift with wisdom to reach his full potential.”
Wes Johnson, who leads YoungLife, another of Jericho’s ministries, concurs: “Xavier is a naturally gifted leader who exudes confidence. He represented himself and our community well at camp. I am glad to have a front seat to his continued maturation as a young man.”
A sports enthusiast who will attend Stepinac Prep school in White Plains, NY, on a football scholarship in the fall, Xavier says he enjoyed YoungLife basketball camp because “we played basketball all day, and because it’s a Christ-centered place. During cabin time each night, we discussed our needs and what God has done for us. Everybody was honest and no one judged each other.”
Thanks to his participation in Jericho’s ministries, Xavier – who wants to be a neurosurgeon if a career in pro football doesn’t pan out - now looks at his life’s challenges and turns them into goals.
“People had doubts about me a lot,” he said, “but I turned it into encouragement to be the best version of myself.”