Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett, school leaders celebrate Joseph Dugat’s special story of success

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2023

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NEDERLAND — Nederland High School senior Joseph Dugat has some advice for others as they walk the path of life.

“Always try to overcome your adversities. It’s a really difficult thing, but if you have a strong will, it will take you far,” Dugat said.

Dugat faced hardships and obstacles in his life. Early in his high school career there were a few bumps in the road, as assistant principal Brandy Roy said, with discipline, attendance issues and struggles with grades.

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He overcame those very obstacles that could have held him back, and on Wednesday earned the Shining Star Award presented by Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett.

Coaches and school staff read nomination letters praising Dugat.

Coach Jody Walker said Dugat has shown himself as a dominant force, formidable opponent and a relentless football player in Mid County and surrounding areas.

“Joseph has had every opportunity to give up, make poor decisions, drop out of school, choose drugs or hang out with the wrong crowd and has chosen to steer clear of those distractions,” Walker said.

“I have no doubt he will finish what he has started here at Nederland as he takes his talents, work ethic, loving heart and infectious smile to South Dakota in the fall.”

Walker said Dugat has had to overcome some painful challenges in his life and at times worked numerous jobs after school and football to provide for himself.

Senior academic counselor Sara Hooks also commended Dugat for his perseverance, noting he has grown into quite the young man and matured from some unfortunate situations.

Dugat will be attending Mount Marty University, a private college in Yankton, South Dakota, on a full scholarship. He plans to study business management and systems and hopes to own his own business.

Coach Monte Barrow said his experiences with Dugat have impacted him and every other student he deals with because you have know what’s going on in another person’s life.

Person after person came to the front of Burnett’s courtroom to attest to Dugat’s character.

But there was more surprise in store for the soon-to-graduate senior. Burnett presented Dugat with a monetary gift of $600 to help with college. The money was donated by well-wishers, he said.

Another surprise came from Port Arthur native, author and speaker Damon West — round trip airfare to South Dakota.

This year marks Burnett’s 20th year honoring a student from either Nederland or Port Neches-Groves high schools who have overcome and taken advantage of opportunities and making a major turnaround.

“I have seen many students make big transformations in the last few years. Many ‘Shining Star’ success stories really help motivate others to stay in school and reach their potential,” Burnett said.

Dugat’s name has been added to a plaque at Burnett’s courtroom with the names of all of the Shining Star winners.