My name is Xerius La’Trē Johnson and this is my story. I was born Jan. 23, 2002 in Las Vegas, Nev. My dad (who was an abusive, drug and alcohol addict) left before I was born and I grew up with my mom, Vanessa Qualls and my brother, Lykos Qualls. I moved all around the country and finally landed in Kansas in 2013 and began fifth grade at Central Burden Elementary School. I will be graduating in May. 

When I first got to Kansas I was the only African-American kid in the school besides my sister. I was made fun of and had ethnic/racial slurs thrown at me as well. I finally overcame the hate and now am friends with everyone.

My brother left for college and it was my mom and I until March 24, 2019 when she committed suicide in Clearwater. She was only 43. Since then I have been struggling with depression and anxiety, which led me to a three-day overnight trip in Via Christi as I was planning to kill myself. I finally got the help I needed and I am now a senior at Central Burden High School and will be attending Cowley in the fall.

I found out about Cowley because my choir and band class took a trip there for the annual competition in 2016. After seeing what the Cowley campus looked like, and how positive everyone was, I knew this was a place I wanted to go to.

Jan. 24, 2020 is a night I will never forget. After recently joining the Central Burden basketball team, I finally was able to play against Argonia at the Cowley College Basketball court. After getting to the college it was time to get warmed up. Midway through the drills my head coach, Jason Wilson, calls me over. He’s standing next to players from Cowley. I was asked what shoes size I wear. Not thinking much of it, I told them “15 to 16.” A tall man gave me his name, Will Mangum, and said “My teammate has some shoes for you.” The team presented me a pair of beautiful, sharp, and comfortable shoes. “Keep them ... go out there and ball up,” Will said, and I did just that.

After reaching out, I was invited to attend the Cowley versus Independence game and it was awesome! With the Cowley men walking out victorious (112-109) I was told to go down to the court and wait for the players. Will was the first player out and I can proudly say he is my idol and role model along with the rest of the Cowley basketball team. They even signed the shoes they gave me. I wear the shoes proudly and confidently. Thank you Cowley College and Will Mangum and the entire Cowley College men’s basketball team for the fresh sneakers and for a moment in my life I’ll forever cherish.


Xerius La’Tre Johnson


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