Student pens winning Black History Month essay

Jamal D. Guiler inspired Juwuan Livingston to not only play football — Juwuan is now weighing football scholarship offers — but to become a better person, says the teen.  Photo courtesy of Jamal D. Guiler

Jamal D. Guiler inspired Juwuan Livingston to not only play football — Juwuan is now weighing football scholarship offers — but to become a better person, says the teen. Photo courtesy of Jamal D. Guiler

By KEVIN BRADY

A Riverview High School student was honored last week for his essay inspired by a coach who made a difference in his life.

Juwuan Livingston, 18, a Riverview senior, was honored at a Feb. 16 ceremony at the Tampa Museum of Art for his LEAD (Lead, Empower, Advocate, Dream) essay. He was inspired by his former football coach and teacher, Jamal D. Guiler, who works in technology and as an
assistant teacher.

“Coming into high school I didn’t know where to start. What classes to take or whether I should play sports,” said Juwuan who is now weighing scholarship offers from two colleges. “If it wasn’t for him [Guiler], I probably wouldn’t be doing anything now.”

Hillsborough County students in grades 3-12 were challenged to create an artistic interpretation expressing how he or she has been inspired by a local black leader. The students entered in three arts categories: Literature, Performance, and Visual Arts. Juwuan aced the literature section for high-school students. Students won a variety of prizes including scholarships and laptops.

“I try to just reiterate what parents say,” said Guiler.

“Within each community there are leaders among us. Some people look up to the elders in their families, teachers at schools, or caregivers such as their doctors,” wrote Juwuan in his winning essay. “As I reflect on the celebration of Black History Month, I would like to recognize this important black leader in my community. The leader in my community that has inspired me is my former coach.”

Like many freshman, Juwuan was intimidated on his first day in high school.

“Everything in high school appeared to be larger than life,” Juwuan wrote. “One morning while registering for my classes, this BIG guy came up to me, introduced himself, and asked me if I was going to play football. I told him that I wasn’t sure if that was something I wanted to do. Mr. Guiler immediately started to make me feel comfortable and told me that he thinks that I should try out for the team.”

Guiler, an assistant football coach, made Juwuan feel comfortable immediately with his teammates, asking him to share what he likes to do and eat with the team. “This gave me an opportunity to get to know my team members better.  At that moment, it was clear to me that Coach Guiler would be a big influence in my high-school career.”

Aside from helping him hone his football skills, Guiler talked with Juwuan about his schoolwork and emphasized the importance of doing community service and being a leader.

“These conversations were meaningful to me because no one had ever had these talks with me before and I did not really know what it meant to be a leader,” Juwuan wrote. “I began to look for events in which I could participate. I worked at a nursing home near my house, I participated in outreach programs at the Moffit Cancer Center, and I worked during the Relay for Life fundraising events.”

Guiler has seen a big change in Juwuan. “He has more confidence,” said Guiler. “His perception of life has changed. With his volunteer hours he has realized there are so many out there that need help. It opened his eyes up to a completely different realm of life.”

Juwuan currently has 126 hours of community services. “I owe this all to Coach Guiler, who motivated me to be a better person,” he wrote.