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BRIGHT FUTURES — Ja’Naye DeRouen powers through scoliosis, eyes career helping others

GROVES — Ja’Naye DeRouen joined Port Neches-Groves High School her freshman year and wasted no time spreading her purple and white pride throughout the community.

Pre-COVID-19, the 18-year-old Groves native participated in services focused on giving back, including Tribe, Indians Give, Key Club and the Association of Indian Athletes.

Each program engaged in helping and assisting the community in unique ways, something DeRouen said she is very passionate about.

“(Giving back) makes me feel like I’m doing something good in this world,” she said. “I want to be a positive role model. I want to teach others how to be leaders and how to be positive role models in the community and the world.”

Ja’Naye DeRouen will graduate this month in the top 11 percent of her class. (Courtesy photo)

Within her various organizations, DeRouen has participated in beach clean-ups, park restoration projects, breast cancer awareness walks, school clean-ups and food drives.

“Being in these different groups has taught me humility and perseverance,” DeRouen said. “In November we did a food drive. We gathered a ton of food in the cafeteria and handed it out to people at their homes. So many people got emotional and overtime it made me emotional to see the difference we were making. It ended up being an unforgettable moment and something I will never forget.”

Along with her many volunteer groups, DeRouen runs the 400- and 800-meter races for the Indians track team.

She also balances a handful of Advanced Placement courses and maintains a 4.0 GPA.

“To me, having a good education is going to get me places,” DeRouen said. “If I don’t have a good education, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. Education has always been important to me. It’s something I strive to do better at.”

Ja’Naye DeRouen poses for a senior portrait session ahead of May’s graduation. 

AP Calculus teacher Jill Hamilton attests to DeRouen’s work ethic in and out of class.

“She’s a wonderful student,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had her in math two years and her mind works really well. She never really struggles. She works really hard in anything that she does. If there is something she doesn’t understand at first, she will work hard to understand it and besides that her disposition is always positive in class.”

Hamilton said DeRouen is very easy going.

“She is just very kind and whatever she chooses to do she is going to be fantastic at,” Hamilton said. “She knows what it means to work hard and achieve goals and I’m really excited for her and her future.”

DeRouen’s future includes heading to Stephen F. Austin State University this fall to major in kinesiology and health science with a minor in speech language pathology.

Both programs share a similar interest of DeRouen’s — helping others.

“With kinesiology and health science, I’ve always been into movement and being able to help people feel better about themselves,” DeRouen said. “A journey I know all too well myself.”

In 2017, DeRouen was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and underwent several months of physical therapy.

“It took me a little while to feel like myself again,” DeRouen said. “But, here I am now, running track and feeling great. I want to be an inspiration like that. I want to be a part of the process of healing others just like my doctor was for me.”

Her decision to minor in speech and language pathology is also a personal one.

“My grandma had a stroke and after that she wasn’t able to talk very well,” DeRouen said. “She knew what she wanted to say, but I could never figure it out so I just always shook my head yes. I knew it upset her and it upset me, too.

“After that, I knew it was something I wanted to do when I was older. I want to be that person that can say, ‘Hey, I know what you are trying to say and I understand.’”

DeRouen said both choices will help her accomplish her dream of making a difference in the world.

“I’ve always wanted to help people, even when I was younger,” she said. “I’m not a negative thinker. Whenever I feel down, I change my mindset to focus on what God’s plan is for me and both of those circumstances showed me that this is what I’m meant to do.”

DeRouen’s favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“My role model is God,” she said. “He is everything I am and everything I hope to be. He has his plan and I trust him. When I’m sad, when I’m mad or happy, I pray to him because He shows us that we can do all things when we put our minds to it and that it’s not how you start the race, but how you finish.”