Spectrum News: Newburgh teen uses football to cope with loss, beat odds
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Semaj Branch is overcoming challenges through football. The senior at Newburgh Free Academy may look like your regular 17-year-old, but get to know Branch, and you’ll discover a teen who had to grow up a lot sooner than someone his age should have.
“A lot of people don't know it, but I've taken care of my sister and my mom and my grandmother, all – at the age of 15 – at the same time,” said Branch.
Branch lost his mother to cancer; soon after, he also lost his grandmother.
He struggled with the loss, and had to take on a more fatherly role to his sister, but discovered football as an outlet to cope.
“Football helped me just escape from it,” Branch said. “I'm able to like completely black it out sometimes, like big games, even regular games.”
Branch’s football coach, Bill Bianco, says Branch has shown great perseverance with everything he went through.
“Obviously, losing mother to cancer a couple years ago was difficult. I mean, it'd be difficult that anyone, forget a student athlete, and then obviously dealing with some of the issues we have here in town lately. You know, he's showing pretty good resilience,” said Bianco.
Branch’s high school counselor, Lakeya Stukes, also says that Semaj is one of the most resilient students she has ever worked with.
“He comes to school every day; he comes to school positive and ready to work, and understands the importance of his role here and the community as an athlete, and also as a scholar,” said Stukes.
Branch hopes that by sharing his story, he can inspire others and says he wants to be a role model for others and make his community proud. Branch has yet to make a final decision on what college he is going to, but hopes to land a football scholarship.
ATTENTION: Are your scholars or colleagues doing something great? Please contact the district Communications Strategist, Cassie Sklarz (email@example.com). We’d love to visit your class or event and/or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district!