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DPS Notables– Student Edition Vote for Kamryn: Aspiring History-Maker Aims to ‘Be the Change’

Kamryn Pate


If one were to surmise Kamryn Pate’s life strategy after meeting him, one of former President Barack Obama’s many wise sayings would come to mind: “If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.”


Kamryn is willing to walk as long and as far as he needs to make progress. He says he’s in it for the long haul. Only 11, the sixth grade Shepard Middle student carries persistence and old-soul wisdom within his spirit.


He says that he imagines a world of peace and inclusivity and grieves that it needs help in its current state. But that grief powers his determination.  His favorite saying is, “Be the change you wish to see.” His ambition is to matriculate at Harvard University, study law, and start his professional life as an attorney.


“That’s how I feel like I can make a difference in this world,” he said.


But that’s only the beginning. He wants to make an impact on gun violence because victims are members of families. Families are never the same once they are affected by gun violence, Kamryn said.


“Violence is a last resort for me. I take tae kwon do because I will defend myself if I need to. I’m a person who is all about peace. I’m just a peaceful person.  But the reality is that there are people who don’t want to listen to peaceful methods,” he said. “I’m sure everyone wants to live in a world where violence should not be a last resort. I want to be known in history as the one who helped stop gun violence.”  


Kamryn is also concerned about pollution.


“Our world can be very beautiful and delicate but also very scary. If we’re not careful, it can be destroyed,” he said.


Kamryn said he's impressed by courageous trailblazers like America’s first African-American president Barack Obama, a Constitutional law attorney, whom he’d like to meet one day.


“He really made a change and actually knew what he was doing,” Kamryn said. “He’s one of the smartest Black males I know.”


Kamryn said his trajectory is toward Harvard, where he might study law, as well.


“I plan to climb up the chain actually. My ultimate goal is president (of the United States),” said Kamryn, who wants to address “important things like gun violence.”


Kamryn is a student of Master Freddie McNeill, the founder, CEO, and master instructor for SIDEKICKS Academy, established in 2019. SIDEKICKS, an acronym for Students Involved in Discipline Education Keyed Into Claiming Knowledge and Success, is a character education program that takes the principles of academic success, mental health support, and social justice, and combines them with the teaching of the basic skills of the Korean martial art of Taekwondo. SIDEKICKS Academy was designed as an organization to further social justice and racial equity in Durham public elementary schools by bridging the historical divide between white students and students of color. Kamryn has been a student for a little more than a year.


“Master Freddie McNeill and Sidekicks Academy has changed me for the better. I’ve learned discipline and respect,” he said.


SIDEKICKS also gave him an opportunity to meet with Councilman and now Mayor-Elect Leonardo Williams, whom Kamryn says has already influenced him greatly. He visited the Council chambers and began thinking about how he, too, could contribute to making societal improvements.


“He got me hooked when he was talking about being an entrepreneur. He honestly makes a good elected official because many times politicians like to hide things. His honesty inspires other kids to become and be just about anything they put their minds to,” he said.


Kamryn said he’s laser-focused on his future and is leading “an interesting life” as a middle school student at Shepard Magnet Middle School. Coming from R.N.Harris Elementary School and leaving his “forever principal” Mshinda Middleton-Brown, he said it has been quite a change moving from class to class, and his book bag has gotten heavier. He’s kept old friends and made some new ones. But he’s determined to remain on his path toward success. 


“One thing I shall not allow is anybody to distract me,” he said. “I am a planner. Things have to be planned and organized or things will not run smoothly for me. Wonky is anarchy, and I have no idea how to handle that. I like organization,” he said. But he adds that when he feels out of sorts, he uses breathing techniques to calm himself.


“I go to school, and I try my hardest every single day,” he said.


Kamryn has already begun researching colleges and study disciplines, and spoken with his father about his interest in law.


He rises at 6:30 a.m., dresses for school, eats breakfast, and faces the day with determination. He has taekwondo with SIDEKicks on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


“I’m finding my own style,” he said.


As a big brother, he takes the role seriously and says it can be a bit frustrating at times. As a student and peer, he said he has given pep talks about behavior that has consequences. Outside of school, he serves on the drumline, plays soccer, baseball, and basketball. He also likes to game and cook.


Otherwise, his trajectory is toward making a difference. Recently, he presented a Black Belt to Gov. Roy Cooper with SIDEKicks Academy, an experience he will not soon forget. He asked Gov. Cooper on a scale of one to 10, how he feels about getting up every day to go to work.  The Governor rated his drive a 10 because people depend on him.


Kamryn said, “Obama is basically my driver. He was a really good example of what he could be as long as he put in the work. It was brave and bold of him.”   


If he could ask former President Obama one question, Kamryn said it would be several in one: “What was it like to go to law school, to become president, and describe the feeling you had when you won.”


He wants to be ready to make history, too.