During his four years at Kentwood High School, Warren Bacote-Wilson has found his place and made an impact.
The senior, who will graduate alongside his peers on Saturday, has been active in Men on the Move, which offers Kent high school and middle school students opportunities to learn about social issues, discuss obstacles, build a stronger sense of self and be leaders at their schools.
“Sometimes people of color, we don’t feel that necessarily,” he said. “Sometimes we feel out of it. (Men on the Move) helps us put a voice in our schools.”
Men on the Move helped shape an equity policy recently adopted by the school district.
“I would have never thought at the start of high school that I would be involved in stuff like that or have that big of an impact where I could directly affect what is going to happen to everyone else in the school in terms of how activities are done,” Bacote-Wilson said. “It is really eye opening because sometimes I feel like in high school, it can really seem like you are alone just finding a place.”
Through Men on the Move, Bacote-Wilson learned to overcome struggles.
“Being in Men on the move allowed me to voice how I feel about things and getting those connections on how I could rise up and how it is more than just me,” he said. “It has raised my spirits and that has really helped me grow as a person.”
One of the most important lessons Bacote-Wilson learned in high school is to listen to other people, advice he hopes others will heed.
“The smartest person in the room is the one listens,” he said. “Always be the one to listen to what is going on around you. …“Remember that there is always someone there to help. Don’t be afraid to approach people who are different from you. … Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Be a leader. Be selfless.”
Bacote-Wilson also served on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, which meets monthly with the district leadership, and found his place in the school’s theater department after taking beginning drama classes his freshman year.
“I keep to myself most of the time I am mostly quiet but on the stage I feel like I can just be anything and it will be OK,” he said. “I can just express myself in a way, even if it is through another character and not necessarily me.”
He took part in four productions throughout his high school career, and his favorite was “The Laramie Project,” which chronicles the reactions to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming.
“There were so many different parts to that play and just seeing the amount of kids that came though and played multiple parts – there were 60, 70 parts in that play total, so a lot had to play multiple roles,” Bacote-Wilson said.
He is grateful for the friendships he forged through the theater program.
“Being in the plays, I have had to work with people who aren’t necessarily like me, and the connections I have made with them are amazing,” he said. “We’re a family now.”
After graduation, Bacote-Wilson hopes to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga.
“I’ve always wanted to go to an HBCU (historically black colleges and universities),” he said.
He would like to study mass communication or journalism.
“I am involved in the arts and that has been my inspiration,” he said. “I really want to do something in the English field. I feel like that has always been a strong suit of mine in school, plus I’m interested in it. My mom taught me from a young age I’ve got read, read, read. I remember I always had trouble with it. She kept working with me on it, and now it is one of my strongest subjects.”