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Saturday, June 7, 2014

BG senior: ‘If you have no drive, then you’re not going to get anywhere’

NASHUA – The decision had been made for Bishop Guertin High School senior Malachi Copeland the summer before his sophomore year.

He didn’t agree at first, but in the end, he said it all paid off. ...

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NASHUA – The decision had been made for Bishop Guertin High School senior Malachi Copeland the summer before his sophomore year.

He didn’t agree at first, but in the end, he said it all paid off.

Copeland said his grandmother Jarretta sat him down.

“She pretty much gave me books, gave me my uniform and said, ‘You’re going to school at Bishop Guertin,” he said.

The senior was attending Nashua High North, and that was fine with him.

“I wanted to stay at North so I could be with my friends,” he said.

However, his family had a different plan. That family is key to his success as a teen.

“I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.,” he said. “When I was about 1 or 2, I moved here because my great-grandmother was sick, so the family had to help out and take care of her, and I stayed here.”

He lives in Nashua with his mother, Lavinia. He doesn’t know where his father is, but he has a strong role model in his Uncle Cameen, who also lives in Nashua.

Copeland describes his uncle as a provider of “words of wisdom and knowledge.”

“He taught me a lot of stuff. He’s like a dad figure to me. He definitely is. He’s the first person I can come to.”

Copeland also speaks highly of the English faculty at BG.

“BG was hard,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t learn how to write an actual essay until my junior year. That’s a key point at Bishop Guertin. That was my biggest struggle.”

They took care of that at BG, Copeland said.

“Pretty much every English teacher helped me out,” he said. “It first started out with Thomas Murphy. He was my first English teacher over there. He helped me out a lot.

“We’d just stay after school, and he’d give me some key points on how to organize my thoughts and put them on paper.”

That first year of transition proved challenging for Copeland.

“In the beginning, I had a few problems with people and teachers,” he said. “We just weren’t on the same page. Some kids … they were not the type of kids I was used to. I guess they didn’t really know how to be comfortable with me. I don’t know. Maybe they weren’t around city kids like me. It was fading out throughout my years. My junior and senior years were better.”

Challenges continued that year, Copeland said.

“At the end of my sophomore year, I started looking for a job,” he said. “I had to help out with the house.”

Money was tight at home. Income for the family was limited, and there were mounting expenses – clothes, food, things at school. He would take a city bus from his downtown home to the Pheasant Lane Mall, where he worked in the food court.

“Working and trying to stay on top of school was very difficult,” he said. “I was working every day of the week besides Sunday. Doing that and do a load of homework, it was pretty much impossible for me. It was stressful.

“It’s just, knowing you have to have your priorities set and knowing you have to reach that goal to make a better living for yourself and that family. Some people think that it’s just given to them all the time.”

That brings around again to his link to family and what he was taught about perseverance and self-reliance.

“My grandmother, uncle and my mom taught me from day one, you have to grind out and do for yourself,” he said. “No one out here is going to do it for you. In life, you have to maintain yourself. If you have no drive, then you’re not going to get anywhere.”

Copeland plans to attend Nashua Community College, and he wants to study all aspects of business – entrepreneurship, fashion, marketing. He said that last year, he wanted to participate in an internship at Nike, but work and school responsibilities got in the way of his application package, which needed product sketches. He’s eligible again in his sophomore year of college.

“I’m going to stick to all my studies in freshman year and then focus on my sketches and sophomore year try it again,” he said.

A sports fan and former athlete, he said eventually he wants to “make some sort of move and make my name in Nike.”

“That’s my goal, to design some shoe or clothing for an athlete or celebrity,” he said.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or DHimsel@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH.