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Parker graduate Kris Joyner learned through experience

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Nick Crow
Friday, June 12, 2015

JANESVILLE—Parker High School senior Kris Joyner has learned that nothing in life comes easy.

These days, people use words such as "respectful," "polite," "leader," "unflappable," "hardworking" and "outstanding" to describe Joyner.

But it wasn't always that way.

"When I got to high school, I had some heart-to-hearts with a couple of people, and it kind of changed things around," Joyner said. "So from freshman year on, I've just been getting involved in as much as I can."

Joyner moved to Janesville from Chicago when he was in third grade. From then until he graduated from middle school, he struggled to adjust.

"From third grade up until probably eighth grade, I was bad," he said. "I did some things that I kind of regret. I was a real big fighter and all that kind of stuff."

Couple that with moving around a lot, losing everything to a house fire and his family's nearly year-long displacement, and you begin to visualize the mountain Joyner had to climb to find success.

"Kris has been through an enormous amount of hardship and struggle in his life," said Deri Wahlert-Eastman, a social studies teacher at Parker.  "It made him strive to be a hard worker and to get to that graduation level."

"It's pretty amazing he kept it together as well as he did," she said. "A lot of kids wouldn't have the motivation to do what he's done through the struggles in his life."

Since high school began, Joyner has been a three-sport athlete; a tutor; a member of French club, National Honor Society and student leadership council; and part of LINK Crew, which helps underclassmen adjust to high school.

"I feel like people are on that road, it's a sense of entitlement," Joyner said. "When they go down that road, they're not being punished or they feel it's OK, and they feel entitled to do things. My mom and the people who've helped me never gave me that sense of entitlement. So I had to think my way out."

Joyner said his three siblings were another reason to take school seriously. He has two younger sisters and one younger brother, said he believes it's important to lead by example.

"Now that someone has leveled with me, I can level with them because I've had that little rebellious stage," Joyner said.

"Usually when people talked to me, they didn't talk to me as a person because they didn't realize I had a brain," he said. "My mentors talked to me as a person, and I realized there's more to life than the stereotype. There are bigger things out there that I'm capable of achieving."

Joyner said he recently got a job at SSI Technologies in Janesville as a technician. He plans to eventually pursue a degree in engineering.

"Kris is just naturally smart," Wahlert-Eastman said. "He's well-spoken, knowledgeable and likes to learn. His experiences have impacted him, and he used a lot of that stuff to his advantage."

Joyner said what he will miss most about Parker are the teachers who have instilled values in him and the memories he has made at the school.

His advice to younger students is to be gracious and positive and to have fun.

"I hate clichés, but clichés are normally true," Joyner said. "So my advice is to just live your time here to the fullest because this will be the longest four years of your life, but at the same time it'll probably be the shortest four years of your life. So get involved in whatever, be positive, do what you have to, have fun, but remember you're here for one reason, and that's to graduate."

"As for me, I'm ready to move on, though," he said. "I have bigger goals."

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