Amirah Downing (Nottingham, 2019) is a powerhouse. She’s loyal, self driven, gives a thousand percent to all her endeavors, and will succeed at anything she puts her mind to. Amirah achieved honor roll for every marking period throughout her high school career, and was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh.
As a member of the Nottingham varsity track and field team, Amirah threw a shot put 30 feet, 9 inches and a discus 53 feet, 10 inches. She won first place in shot put at the Syracuse City Track & Field Championships, and seventh in discus. Amirah plays the flute and helped the Nottingham wind ensemble earn the prestigious “Gold” rating from the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) annual adjudication festival.
Of all Amirah’s accomplishments, she’s most proud of her own personal development. “My greatest accomplishment is understanding who I am and what I want in my life, and finally knowing my limits, strengths, and weaknesses,” she said. “I eliminated any negativity or toxic people in my life, and I now know I’m very self-driven and a high achiever.”
But the road hasn’t always been smooth, and Amirah had to walk through fire to get to where she is now. “I used to get bullied,” she said. “I saw a lot of things that a child shouldn’t see.” Amirah fell in with the wrong crowd and began participating in the kinds of behaviors and pastimes they were doing. Some key adults intervened in Amirah’s life, and helped her find her inner strength to channel her energy into achieving her goals and building a future.
The late Curtis McDowell played a major role in that transformation. McDowell was a Nottingham graduate and local hip hop artist, who worked as a Family Support for Student Success (FSSS) specialist at Nottingham. He passed away suddenly in March of this year, a loss that is felt deeply at school and throughout the community. In his role at Nottingham, McDowell collaborated with students and families struggling with behavior problems and other issues that academic success. He made an impact on Amirah’s life she will never forget.
“Curtis was like a father to me,” she said. “Then he passed, and I still love and miss him. My latest decision was enlisting into the Army National Guard and he helped me realize that if I want something, then get it. He told me to not live for someone else, and I listened to him. Because of him, I came to my decision. He cleared my mind and I never got the chance to tell him thank you for helping me. So I want to say thank you. Thank you for being like a dad to me.”
In August, Amirah went to basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. When she returns, she will work full time in the Guard and attend the University of Pittsburgh.
Favoriite thing about your school: “Staff members who actually care about the kids. The closest staff member to me that impacted my life is Coach Marty, Coach Rodriguez, and Curtis McDowell. Each and every one of them helped me get my life back on track. They gave me advice on what to do and what not to do. Coach Marty is like another father to me. He makes sure that I’m good in school, emotionally, and gives me advice on everything. Thanks, Marty. I love you, coach Marty.”
Favorite class and why: “U.S. History. I learned a lot of hidden topics that most people wouldn’t know. Because of this passion I got a 97 on my Regents.”
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