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News from 2022-2023

Posted: May 10, 2023

'It Can't Storm Forever'

Del Norte graduating senior refused to give up his dream of playing college basketball despite suffering a devastating setback.

Deion Jim

Deion Jim

Outside the principal’s office at Del Norte High School is a quote from “Rocky Balboa” capturing the poignant moment in the film where Rocky tells his son that succeeding means taking all that life throws at you and persevering.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows,” he says. “It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

It's advice that Del Norte Principal Edward Bortot and his team impart regularly, and it’s a message that the school’s Class of 2023 appears to have taken to heart.

Take Deion Jim, an ardent Amateur Athletic Union basketball player, who was competing in a tournament in Denver during his junior year when he suffered a devastating knee injury.

Jim has been playing organized basketball since he was 5. Growing up, he and his best friend would play every day.

“It brings me peace whenever I play,” Jim said. “It keeps you in shape. It keeps you in good health. It just hasn’t let me down.”

He remembers in vivid detail the day his world changed – March 28, 2022.

“I was driving left to go for a pullup jumpshot, and whenever I took my second step, his knee and my knee collided, and then my knee just buckled,” Jim said. “It popped, and then it just like locked up in the moment. It was terrible. It hurt really bad.”

He fractured his knee and tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus. He underwent a knee reconstruction surgery and suffered setbacks.

He fell into depression, gained 20 to 30 pounds, and became even more distraught.

“You feel like you’ve put in so much work, and you are getting to your best point that you’ve been at and your peak, and you’re starting to get really good,” Jim said. “And then you get injured, and it’s taken from you all in one movement. All in one step your whole future is taken away from you.”

The road forward was daunting, and he admits that at one point he questioned whether he had it in him to push through.

He forced the negative thoughts out of his head. A trip to Hawaii to visit his childhood best friend helped get him back on track, and he began putting in the work to heal his body and strengthen his knee.

Jim made it back on the court. He continues to work out every day and says he’s probably 85-90% healthy. He is looking at playing basketball at one of three National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools in the fall.

Del Norte High’s Class of 2023 is filled with stories of students who, when faced with adversity, refused to give up.

Kiara Onomoto was just 5 when she lost her father and had to step up to help her mom with her 2-year-old sister and 1-year-old brother. In high school, she has maintained a rigorous course schedule and has a stellar GPA. She’s heading to the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York in the fall where she plans to major in computing security and political science. Onomoto says her father’s death made her stronger and is partly responsible for her drive and ambition.

Abocha Ebakyelo fled war in Africa with his family in 2019 and started his freshman year not knowing English. He is planning to attend Central New Mexico Community College and pursue a career in law enforcement.

And Chanyoung Lee, who was born in South Korea, moved to Albuquerque in November of his freshman year and then had the COVID-19 pandemic hit a few months later. He is heading to the University of New Mexico where he will likely major in mechanical engineering.

Lee, the school’s valedictorian, has excelled academically, having attained a 4.433 GPA and several college credits after successfully passing Advanced Placement exams in calculus, physics, and other subjects. He still thinks about the social relationships he could have forged and the extracurricular activities he might have taken part in had he had a normal high school experience, but he refuses to dwell on it.

“What's the point in getting sad or mad or emotional about anything you can't control?” he asked.

Jim – who is considering a career in physical therapy to help kids with injuries like the one he sustained – agrees.

“Anybody who suffers a setback just has to take it one day at a time,” he said. “It can’t storm forever. There’s going to be bad days, and there’s going to be good days, but you’ve just got to keep pushing to see the end goal.”