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Learning from Loss, and Thriving

  • Kaiwann King grew up in housing projects in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, and suffered terrible injuries at age 9, when he lost an arm and a leg in a train accident.

    But as a teenager, he made quite the move--from the rough streets of the city to Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast southwest of Los Angeles.

    Call it a safe haven.

    King enrolled at Long Beach Unified School District’s Avalon K-12 school, which serves about 500 students. He became an honor roll student and was accepted to five universities. King plans to study kinesiology in college to pursue a career in physical and mental fitness.

    Coming to Avalon taught me how to live, because coming from the projects you’re exposed to bad things at a young age,” King said in a feature released on the Long Beach United School District’s website.

    “I never had a really loving family, but I met a friend here, and she kind of invited me into her family, so I’ve got a family now. I’ve really learned how to live here, to be honest, the right way.”

    And, he excelled on the varsity basketball team, scoring 15 points in one game and 9 in another.

    Varsity basketball coach Steve Hall, writing in the Catalina Observer, said it is “truly amazing what he can do with the basketball, both dribbling and shooting. He has a complete game and was a positive force on our varsity team.”

    Hall described King as “an inspiration to all, especially to those who also struggle with physical and mental issues. We are a lucky town and school to have him for this brief time in our history.”

    The headline on Hall’s essay speaks volumes: “Kaiwann, our King of inspiration.”

    The headline on Hall’s
    essay speaks volumes: “Kaiwann, our King of inspiration.”