Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chamberlain's Terrell Johnson plans for college, despite disease

Terrell Jefferson, 19, diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau disease, was accepted by Florida A&M University.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times (2012)

Terrell Jefferson, 19, diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau disease, was accepted by Florida A&M University.

TAMPA PALMS — Good news for a Chamberlain High School senior came last week as a three-pack combo.

Terrell Jefferson, 19, couldn't stop smiling.

He got a letter of acceptance to Florida A&M University.

He won scholarships that will fully pay for his costs.

And he learned he has no tumors.

Jefferson was featured in the Tampa Bay Times Holiday Hopes series six months ago. He wanted help to pay for a test to determine if he had inherited a rare disease called Von Hippel-Lindau, which eight months earlier had killed his father.

Readers generously chipped in to pay for the $675 lab test and other fees.

In January, Jefferson got his results: positive.

At first, he was distraught. He had watched his father and a brother struggle with the disease, which causes benign and malignant tumors.

"I knew sometime in my future it's going to hit me," said Jefferson.

Time has allowed him to accept the diagnoses and more tests returned news of no tumors.

He's glad he knows.

"I want people to know I'm all right," he said recently. "I'm going to college to pursue my dreams. I want to say thank you to everybody who donated."

Jefferson plans to be a pediatric nurse or maybe a doctor.

He no longer worries that he will pass out while playing basketball or wake up one day in pain like his brother, who had eight tumors on his brain and continues to battle the disease.

Jefferson is working his way through several programs at the Tampa Palms office of Starting Right, Now, to help him, including ones from Dale Carnegie and Ruby Payne. Founder Vicki Sokolik says her goal is to eliminate the cycle of homelessness among high school students accepted by referral through the school district. She has 110.

Jefferson sat in Sokolik's office after school recently with a fresh hair cut for his job at McDonalds.

Working is one of the requirements for the program that provides apartments, mentors and cellphones. Sokolik gave Jefferson a letter awarding him a third scholarship and he asked her about college orientation.

He will start classes in June.

"Vicki, I'm thinking about getting a credit card," he said.

They had talked about it before and she reminded him credit can lead to trouble.

Jefferson said he was aware of the dangers, but wants to build his credit.

"Well, if you get it, you have to pay off the balance each month in full," Sokolik said.

Jefferson says it feels like everything leading to this point in his life was predestined.

He grew up quick after his father's death, he said, facing choices that could have turned his life sour.

He'd had no luck finding a job.

"I could have easily sold drugs for food, he said, a sure path to jail.

Instead, he has made good with help.

"Take this great kid and back him up against the wall — he has to do what he can to survive," Sokolik said.

But he met a counselor from the Florida Department of Children and Families, who put him on his current path.

Sokolik says she looks for kids with a certain spark.

Their stories are different, yet the same.

"He's going to change the world," Sokolik said. "He will."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

Chamberlain's Terrell Johnson plans for college, despite disease 04/25/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 1:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

    Blogs

    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.