DANBURY — Nick Gill has never really been a fan of school.

“I came anyway because my parents made me,” Gill said.

When his mother and biggest supporter, Eva Key, died of cancer Jan. 7, dropping out of Danbury High School became a real option for him.

He didn’t expect her to pass away when she did, as she had just driven her F-250 with a 6-inch lift to his basketball game in La Marque the week before. Gill played football, basketball and baseball, and said his mom was always there to support him.

“There wasn’t more I could ask for from a mom,” he said.

“You can ask anyone” in Danbury, he said, each would say Key was a great person. That’s why the whole town showed up for the funeral, he said.

Going to school became increasingly hard after his mom’s death, he said. When he tried to go back after a week, he had his dad check him out after first period. He took the rest of the week off and tried again the next.

But he wanted to get back into playing basketball quickly, so the only game he sat out was on the day after his mom’s passing.

To fulfill the wishes his parents have always had for him, and with the encouragement and guidance of his assistant principal, Crystal Pounds, he’ll walk across the stage Friday and attend Texas State Technical College in Waco in the fall to earn a certification in electrical powers and controls.

“She kept me straight,” Gill said.

Pounds was “devastated” when she heard Gill was wanting to drop out, she said. As a mother of boys herself, she thought about him like he was her own, she said.

She was able to show Gill that although he had missed some school, his transcript did not look as bad as he thought and he was on track to graduate, Pounds said.

But despite his rough patch, Gill is the life of the party, she said. He was elected prom king this year and stayed at the dance until the end, Pounds said.

“He’s stayed a very positive kid through everything he’s been through,” she said.

Gill is ready to be on his own, he said. He likes the quietness of Danbury but is ready to live in the much bigger city of Waco and already knows where he’ll be living, Gill said.

He’s saved up the Social Security benefit checks and worked in the rice fields over the summer to fund himself through college. With plans to take summer school, he should finish college in two and a half years, he said.

Maddy McCarty is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0151.

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