Editor's note: Nation Ford High School, which is in its second year, will soon say goodbye to its first graduating class. Over the last few weeks, we've been sharing stories from students who persevered despite obstacles that could have stood between them and a high school diploma.
Part III of a series
FORT MILL -- Shiquisa "Que" Watts knows how to maneuver her way down a basketball court to hook a layup. She's no stranger to snatching rebounds.And, the Fort Mill teen has skills in the construction arena, too.
But the 18-year-old couldn't always manage her temper.
"The last three years of high school, I had an anger problem," said Watts, a senior at Nation Ford High School. "I used to flip on everybody."
That led to verbal confrontations and sometimes fights. Until a former basketball coach-turned assistant principal took an interest in Watts.
"She wouldn't back down at all," Assistant Principal Pam Pittman said. However, "I saw a light in her eye that she was someone special. She needed someone to keep her grounded and help her understand what's important."
Watts, formerly a student at Fort Mill High School, had to master walking away from confrontations and embrace asking for help while using available support resources at school. And she did.
"Quisha hasn't let her past choices decide her future," Nation Ford guidance counselor Jennifer Sorscher said. "It could be real easy, especially for kids in high school, to buy into a story. She has chosen to write her own story."
So much so that the girl who once wouldn't back down commands attention on the basketball court and in the classroom, where she made mostly A's this year, Sorscher said.
But it's hard to do your best when family support is lacking. When you look up in the bleachers and see few family faces. And confrontations lead to fights and two stints at Fort Mill Academy, an alternative program for at-risk students.
"The first two times, I didn't care," Watts said. "I was going because I had to do."
Then another situation landed Watts back at the academy.
"The third time I noticed that I really wasn't going to get back in school, and I didn't want to finish at the academy," she said.
That's when she had an epiphany.
"I had to get my life back on track," she said. "Change the way I reacted and how fast I reacted."
That was last spring. Over the summer, Watts reached out to Pittman several times.
"She called me one day last summer and she was in a huge fight with her brother," recalled Pittman, who drove to the fight site and picked up Watts. "She was so angry. I knew if I didn't get her out of there, things wouldn't end right for her."
The two drove around Fort Mill before they ended up at Nation Ford, where they talked for most of the day, Pittman said.
"I knew at that point that I was going to have to go to bat for her and take responsibility for her actions. I said, 'Que, I'm here for you, but you're going to have to do your part.' And she did."
That was a first for Watts -- having someone in her corner.
"It made me feel like I could let my guard down,"Watts said.
And she did, deciding there would be no more fights. "It was getting me nowhere," she said.
Temptation encroached with challenges, but Watts emerged the winner.
"I walked away," she said. "I came back to Ms. Pittman's office. It's a comfort zone."
Instead of engaging in confrontations, Watts focused on school work, layups and rebounds. She snatched 30 rebounds during most games, setting the stage for a teammate to score.
"That's my life," she said. "That's the main thing that keeps me focused. As I play, I relieve myself of anger."
A torn ligament forced her from the game she loves and taught her discipline.
"She went to every practice," Pittman said. "She sat on the edge of the benches and cheered the team on. The old Que, no way. She never would have done that."
When Pittman finally saw Que take the ball to the court, she was surprised.
"The first game I actually saw her play in, she was in a breakaway layup," Pittman recalled. "The old Que would have charged right through and taken her shot. But the new Que did a no-look pass to the girl running with her and that girl scored."
But maturation for Watts means more than basketball. She wants to build on construction skills passed to her from her grandfather and nurtured by the school district's construction class.
"I've always wanted to build houses for people and have my own company," she said.
Now, Watts prepares for a new chapter of her life. She's been accepted at Allen University but hopes to get into North Carolina A&T, where she plans to major in construction management.
"So I can build my momma a house and add some rooms to my granddaddy's house," she said.
And give back what she received.
"I want to come back here and be a coach," she said. "This is where I made my change. The basketball team changed me."