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February: Jaden Jules of Riverside High School

An outstanding student, writer for the school newspaper, musician and student activist who wants to help and uplift other students: these are the qualities that led Riverside High senior Jaden Jules to be named The Herald Sun Durham Public Schools Student of the Month for February 2017.

While attending the 2016 NC Governor’s School for instrumental music, Jules was taken aback by the lack of diversity among the students attending the statewide program.  This revelation compelled him to return to Riverside and start a Black Student Union.  The goal of the club is to understand different points of views by providing students of all backgrounds an outlet to discuss and find solutions for current issues affecting minority students.

“I want to encourage more black students to take honors and AP classes,” said Jules. “I’ve been working with the school counselor to find students who could be taking higher level classes, but aren’t. I then go class to class to present the benefits of taking honors and AP classes.”

And Jules doesn’t just present to students. He’s also been taking the insights he gets at Black Student Union meetings to the faculty and staff, sharing information to help close the achievement gap at Riverside.

While he has not completely decided on a major, Jules will continue his passion for music at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University in the fall and possibly pursue a degree communication and public policy. He will be a first generation college student and has received more than $120,000 in scholarships and grants. 

Jules credits his mother with encouraging him to work hard and to not let obstacles discourage him or get in his way. While she wasn’t a musician herself, she instilled in him a love of music and pushed him to play.

“I have had some very hard aspects of my life, but I was always surrounded by very hard working people that encouraged me to challenge myself and to continue moving forward,” said Jules.