Graduate 2019: Terrence Bell
Path to Success Lined with Friends, Family, Long Talks
There are some people who yell.
There are some people who hit.
There are some people who talk — a lot.
When Terrence Bell would lose his temper or make a bad decision, he could always count on his granddad Calvin Chetham to set him straight.
“When I got in trouble, he’d give me a lecture — a lecture that would last two or three hours,” Bell said with a laugh and a smile. “He was that male figure that I really needed. I don’t think I would have turned out the way I did without him stepping up into that role.”
Coming from a home where he was largely raised by a single mother, with his father in prison, Terrence Bell graduated from Kalamazoo Central this spring. He was selected as one of the student speakers for graduation. He plans to attend Itasca Community College in Minnesota, where he has signed to play football.
Bell, 18, has attended Kalamazoo Public Schools since kindergarten. He wasn’t always the best student, admitting that sometimes his anger got the best of him and got him into trouble. Things became more tumultuous when his father went to prison in 2010.
He said he felt that people who were angry with his father took out their frustration on him.
“I couldn’t run from it, because we have the exact same name. As soon as I’d tell somebody my name, I always got a dirty look.”
As a child, he said sometimes he blew up when that happened. It caused problems at school. It earned him some of those long lectures from his grandfather.
“There was a point in his schooling, where I thought, ‘Lord, just let him get through high school,’” Chetham said. “I would talk to him. Sometimes it did last awhile. I’ve been known in my family to repeat myself over and over again until it gets through to them. My kids say, ‘OK, OK, I get it.’”
Chetham said his grandson has grown up a lot in the last few years, and the change is something amazing to witness.
“We are so proud of him at this point,” Chetham said. “I keep telling him, people don’t allow you to speak at graduation if they don’t see something in you. You have done an outstanding job.”
His grandmother is Marcella Cheatham. His mother is Marcia Jackson. Bell said a lot of it is just a matter of maturing, but he also found much of his motivation to change in sports.
“Sports have always been important to me,” he said. “You connect with people, I think. Plus, I’m a competitor. I’ve always been competitive. I love to go against someone and have it be a competition.”
Throughout the years, he’s played basketball, baseball, football and track. He played football and track all four years in high school, playing defensive tackle and right guard in football and throwing shotput and discus in track.
Not only did he love the competitiveness of sports, but he liked the people he met.
“I came in as a freshman, and I saw how the older people acted,” Bell said. “I hung out with a lot of seniors in my freshman year. You get accustomed to how they carry themselves and you start to carry yourself that way.
“Sports is key to maturity. You have school and you have sports. For me to mature in school, I felt I had to be better at my sports. For me to be good at my sports, I had to be better at school.”
Also important to his maturing was stepping into leadership roles at school. He was a member of Kappa League, a high school arm of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. The group focus on leadership skills and community service.
Chetham is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. The fraternity takes Kappa League members on college tours and arranges for high schoolers to compete in talent shows. The fraternity members also teach the students things such as table manners, how to tie a tie, how to dress for work, and business conversation skills.
One of the things Bell became known for — on campus and in the community — was leading the Kalamazoo Central football team in taking a knee during the national anthem. He said when San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick first began taking a knee to protest social and racial injustice, it inspired a lot of conversation among young players, but he found himself at the center of the controversy when he dropped to a knee during a game against Battle Creek Lakeview.
“I just went ahead and went down. I don’t even remember it,” Bell said. Although he and other members of the team have been criticized for their actions, he said, “We’re one of the biggest schools in Michigan. I felt like it’s a platform we can use. Some people say leave that up to the pros, but I felt like why does it have to just be them doing it? Why can’t we all do it?”
These teammates are more than compatriots on the field, they are fast friends off the field as well. Among his closest allies: Kavon Ford, Jadakiss Lewis, Faylin Goodwin, Dammon Beverly, Derreck Beverly, Dajuan Edwards, and Rayquon Williams.
“If you see two of us sitting and talking and you walk away and come back 20 minutes later, there will be like 20 people standing around us,” he said with a smile. “We’re just people that people like to be around.
“We’re on each other. If we see one slacking, we pick them up. If one of us goes through hard times, we all go through hard times together. It’s not even friends. It’s more like family.”