By Cleve Bryan


PAULSBORO, N.J. (CBS) — A young man is earning praise for his resiliency. He’s thriving and looking forward to a bright future, despite some tough circumstances.

A survivor of child abuse, Ka’Juan Garrett hopes to one day help other kids in difficult situations.

School is almost out for the summer at Paulsboro High School and for seniors, Friday is the big day all the hard work pays off.

Garrett leaves Paulsboro with quite the high school resume. He’s a multi-sport athlete, band member and honor roll student who earned a full ride to Rowan University.

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What’s most impressive is that he accomplished all of that as a child abuse survivor.

“I had to take a negative and turn it into a positive and just try to make the situation a good thing,” Garrett said.

Garrett chose to go into the foster care system in Gloucester County and finished his last two years of high school living with his best friend’s family. He found a new friend and mentor in his court appointed special advocate.

“He chose not to have anger, he chose not to have hate, he chose to work on his self because I always try to teach people that if people make you mad, success is the greatest revenge,” Sugar Ray Coney, Garret’s court appointed special advocate, said.

As a longtime community volunteer, Coney says he’s seen too many cases of kids who suffer abuse continuing the cycle of destructive behavior, or becoming paralyzed by depression.

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He finds Garrett’s resiliency and maturity remarkable.

“You have to learn how to forgive even though you’ve probably been abused,” Garrett said. “Don’t forgive just to forgive them, but you have to forgive to be able to move on and do what you have to do to pursue and be what you want to be.”

After graduation, Garrett’s plans are to study social work at Rowan and to use his own experiences to help other children from troubled homes.