Kamil Qahar of High Point, N.C. is a senior at High Point Central High School, where he takes advanced placement classes and participates in basketball and track. From the outside, he seems like an all-American kid.
However, in an interview with WGHP-TV News, Kamil recounts his difficult childhood. His father has never really been in the picture and his mother left him and his brothers a few years ago. They lived in their house without electricity and running water and got to school early to take showers and wash their clothes.
Despite the odds against him, Kamil has excelled in high school with the support of his teachers and coaches.
His basketball coach Joel Battle told WGHP-TV, “The situations that he was going through were so bad that he was staying with us [his coaches] sometimes if he needed to. We were picking him up, taking him to eat, every birthday they had we would celebrate, take them to a restaurant … They almost became family.”
The US has seen a steady decline in high school dropout rates over the past two decades. According to statistics gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics, the rate has decreased from 12 percent in 1990 to seven percent in 2012.
Teachers recognize these gains, but are also aware of the obstacles their students still face.
In a May survey done of the 2015 state teachers of the year, when teachers were asked what barriers to learning most affect their students’ academic success, 76 percent of teachers cited “Family stress” and 63 percent cited “Poverty.”
What can be done to stem the tide?
Shaana Peeples, 2015 teacher of the year for Texas, and subsequently the nation, told the Texas Tribune that students look to her for motivation.
"A lot of students come in and eat lunch in my room. We have a lot of dinner-table conversations that maybe they are not having with a parent, but they are having with me or another teacher. That is kind of how we build that relationship with them to help push them, based on what they say that they want to accomplish."
Teachers and coaches like Peeples are positive role models for students struggling emotionally and academically. Kamil found similar mentors at his high school in Coach Battle and others.
Once a child washing his clothes in the school bathroom, Kamil is set to attend High Point University in the fall on multiple scholarships. He wants to be a professional athlete and might pursue a career in broadcast journalism in the future.
“What I’ve done so far is just a small amount of what I want to do in the future,” he told WGHP-TV.
Kamil graduates from high school on June 16th.