Kenton Ridge teacher Jon Daniels, who's also the new head football coach, sat down at home in a suit and tie this spring to film a video tribute to senior Titus Beard.
Beard is known for dressing well, and that’s why Daniels dressed up for the occasion. He was awarding Beard a Golden Apple Achievement award. Before doing so, Daniels described a student who didn’t fit into a single clique at the school but held a special spot with every group.
»PHOTOS: Class of 2020 top grads
Beard, Daniels said, is “someone intensely focused on their future but also incredibly invested in the here and now, someone who’s future goals have nothing to do with what’s best for them but instead on how they can impact others, someone who understands you should never try to fit in when you were created to stand out.”
Everyone in the high school would stop to listen to Beard when he read the morning announcements, Daniels said, because the way Beard lives his life demands respect.
“Your best is yet to come,” Daniels told Beard. “The Kenton Ridge family is better because you’re a part of it.”
» CLASS OF 2020: Schools light up stadiums to honor seniors
Beard has done his part to lift his fellow students’ spirits during the coronavirus pandemic. In a video he posted to Facebook on May 12, he talked about how experiencing a typical graduation ceremony would be nice, it would not define the future for the class of 2020.
“The question is what are you going to do after it,” Beard said. “The question is what am I going to do after it. … Now let’s go into this world, class of 2020, and take it by storm.”
That’s what Beard did during his four years at Kenton Ridge, though it hasn’t been easy. His dad Keith Beard, who had battled kidney cancer for two years, died in 2010 at 47 when Titus was 8.
“He was an extraordinary man,” Titus said. “He was a family man and took time with all my siblings and took time with my mother.”
Two memories of his dad stand out. During the construction of Springfield Regional Medical Center, Keith took Titus to see the construction in progress. They sat on lawn chairs across the street and watched the building rise.
“That was just absolutely amazing to me,” Titus said.
Beard also has a memory of his dad getting ready for work — he delivered mail on the Wittenberg University campus — when he was 4 or 5 and remembers being impressed his dad was grinding to support his family.
“Even though my dad has been gone for 10 years,” Beard said, “holding that one memory of him getting up and going to work, that’s all I need. That’s an example of how I should support my family when I have one one day.”
» EARLIER COVERAGE: Ohio schools to finish academic year remotely
While his mom Deborah Beard said Titus coped well with his father’s death when he was young, in the last year, he has gone through some tough times dealing with the absence of his father. Beard dealt with depression issues during his junior year. He credited Kenton Ridge teacher Dana Moore with helping to save his life.
Beard and Moore talked a lot, often in her room just before school started, about what he was experiencing. At one point, she asked Beard to write all the good things he and others saw in himself on one piece of paper and write his failures on another page.
“It made me realize I had a whole page of good things about me and what good people see in me and one failure,” Beard said, “but I’m going to let this one failure bring me down. That changed my perspective.”
This January, Beard also felt down when the 10-year anniversary of his dad’s death arrived. Deborah saw the difference in him and suggested counseling.
“He was very open to it,” Deborah said. “I was not going to force it. He really enjoyed. That went well.”
Beard was in a much better place by the time schools shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic and has stayed positive by keeping active. He got interested in writing and spoken-word art when he was a freshman and has performed at variety shows at the high school. He has big goals for his post-high school life.
Earlier this year, Beard started the Northridge Schools Grief and Bereavement Support Program with fellow student Emma Cox to help kids who have lost loved ones. Their work got cut short by the pandemic, but they want to continue it. Beard also plans to expand his spoken-word performances and build a following on YouTube. He wants to be a best-selling author.
No one should doubt him.
“He’s just an awesome kid,” Deborah said. “He’s very obedient, very easygoing and he just has a heart for people. He’s kind of his own person. He’s not swayed by peer pressure and things like that.”
About the Author