Justin Norwood, 17, is graduating from Riverside High School next month and plans to attend Washington State University next year to study engineering.
After that, he wants to get a good job so he can build a steady life for himself and support his parents and little brother.
It’s a long way from where he’s come.
Born in Glendale Heights, just outside Chicago, his birth mother drank and did drugs. Once, she took Norwood from his father and moved to Arkansas with another man. As a 5-year-old boy, Norwood had to tell his father what his mother had been up to.
He and his dad moved to the Tri-Cities “just to try to get away from the situation,” but things didn’t get much better. They were pretty much homeless for two years.
As a 7-year old, Norwood started hanging around the wrong crowd, getting into trouble.
“I just kind of lost my sense of self, I guess,” he said.
When Norwood’s father, Roy, met his stepmother, Tamyra Reynolds, things turned around for both of them. They moved to Spokane and later to Chattaroy, where he began to flourish.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, if my dad hadn’t met my mom (Reynolds), I would be in jail,” he said.
Norwood said she encouraged him. Reynolds’ son, Bailey, taught him a lot of lessons, too.
Born with a mild form of autism, Bailey is someone Norwood looks up to, even though he’s younger.
“He’s just like a miracle kid,” Norwood said. “He doesn’t complain.”
In middle school, when Norwood was new to the area, he joined sports. His new friends challenged him to do his best.
“Everyone I met here would push themselves,” he said. He played right guard in football his freshman, sophomore and senior years, taking his junior year off. He played third base on the school’s baseball team. He also coached Bailey’s baseball team.
In school, Norwood started taking tougher classes – AP English and history, pre-calculus. He took English at the college level, calculus and Spanish 3.
When he’s not busy with school and sports, Norwood said he spends a lot of time with his youth group at Chattaroy Community Church.
He said he thinks about his birth mother sometimes. A few months ago, she was supposed to call him but didn’t. When he got in touch with her again, she had a lot of excuses for why she hadn’t called.
He told her that he should be a priority in her life, and then told her not to call him anymore.
While he said he tries to be tough, it was hard for him to do. “There were some tears then,” he said.
As graduation gets closer, Norwood thinks about where he’s come from to get where he is today.
“I guess it was a complete 180-degree turnaround,” he said. “I was going so fast to nowhere, I didn’t think about the consequences.”