Grand Junction grad measures his success

DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Grand Junction High School graduate Tsinnijinnie Russell wears a sash made of wrappers from candy, a treat he still gives himself occasionally after losing 100 pounds. Russell, who excelled at speech and debate, has earned a William Daniels scholarship, which he’ll use to pay for his education of University of Colorado at Denver.

DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Grand Junction High School graduates celebrate as commencement exercises close at Stocker Stadium.

The Tsinnijinnie Russell who walked on Tuesday with 347 of his fellow Grand Junction High School Tigers to claim their diplomas at Stocker Stadium isn’t the same one who walked into the doors of the school four years ago.

He’s a greater—and a lesser—person.

Lesser in the sense that he weighed in about 165 pounds, or 100 pounds less than he weighed walking into Grand Junction High.

It was a feat he managed by running and eating almost nothing but cereal, he said.

He’s greater in that he used his weight-loss experience to expand his opportunities. Russell turned rapid weight loss into a speech with which he won a speech and debate final as a sophomore.

Russell’s weight-loss success doesn’t mean he denies himself small pleasures. He wore a sash made from candy wrappers—with the candy still in them—for graduation.

“Oh, I love candy,” he said.

He won his speech contest again this year with an address about anti-intellectualism and would be bound for the national contest, but for the fact that the tournament conflicts with a Daniels scholarship event.

That’s right, Russell also is a recipient of a William Daniels scholarship, a full-ride scholarship he’ll use to attend the University of Colorado at Denver.

He’ll have to work during his college years as a condition of his scholarship, but, he said, he’s pleased that he’ll be able to attend college without stressing the family budget.

He has an older brother, Cameron, who attends Colorado Mesa University, and a younger brother, Justin, who attends GJHS.  His own name means “Black Bear,” “or so I’ve been told all my life,” he said with a smile.

Grand Junction High teachers Lorena Thompson and Nancy Strippel, he said, were particularly helpful.

After he completes college, hopes to teach, he said, and “help students out in the way I’ve been helped out in my life.”

Another member of the Class of 2013, Valedictorian Luciana Madison, competed her high school career with a 4.46 grade-point average and will attend Cornell in the fall.


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