Editor’s note: This is another in a longstanding annual series in the MDJ spotlighting the county’s best and brightest as they graduate high school.

MARIETTA — Marietta High School’s Tre’Juan Byrd has an undeniable swagger and is well-known on campus. Walking the halls of the high school last week, nearly every teacher or student who passed took a moment to say hello or congratulate the sharply dressed senior on his upcoming graduation.

He’s headed to Morehouse College in Atlanta in the fall, and said he chose the school for its strong, black male role models, grinning and adding, “iron sharpens iron.”

But Byrd said that since he was young, he’d never had a strong sense of community and leadership like what he found through his community service and involvement at Marietta High School.

“I would say the reason I like to give back the most is because I know where I come from. I mean, I’m originally from Metter, Georgia, and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity, and to this day there’s really not. When I go back, I see that there’s a lot that needs to be done,” Byrd said.

Byrd spent only his high school years in Marietta, but said his journey to get here and his growth when he arrived have set him on a path to success that would not have otherwise been possible.

Byrd said he grew up surrounded by a culture of crime and violence. Though he was never a victim of attacks or abuse, he said watching it all around him forced him to “unlearn” what he had seen when he left Metter at 12.

“When I moved from Metter up to Maryland with my uncle, I had to unlearn 12 years’ worth of things,” Byrd said, adding that his uncle spent about 20 years in the Navy. “I really learned a lot from him, like military discipline, and to see how I could be productive and reshape from what I’ve learned growing up into something that’s different and is actually going to benefit society.”

When he moved to Marietta with his mother and sister just before his freshman year of high school, Byrd said he could immediately tell he would be surrounded by a supportive community. He said he dove into as many activities and clubs as he could during school, and through his enthusiasm for new experiences discovered Go Be Love International, a nonprofit group partnering with ministries and missionaries to send short-term assistance teams to locations around the globe.

Through the organization, Byrd traveled to Uganda over spring break, where he and groups of volunteers visited schools, assisted in removal of parasitic fleas from villagers’ feet and passed out mosquito nets to help prevent the spread of malaria. He also previously traveled to Honduras, where he worked at schools in the morning and distributed supplies to pineapple field workers in the afternoon.

Kelly Herrero, middle years program International Baccalaureate coordinator at Marietta High, said Byrd has been making impressions at the school since he arrived.

“He’s got an ‘it’ factor about him that’s undeniable. He exudes a confidence that’s inspiring yet not arrogant,” Herrero said, adding that he was a stand-out performer in the IB program.

She said no matter what he’s involved in, Byrd “gives to others his mind and heart.”

Marietta High School Principal Keith Ball agrees. Ball said if ever there was a role model for younger students, Byrd is it.

“Since the first day I met Tre’, he has consistently carried himself with honor and class. He is true to himself and what he values and believes in,” Ball said. “Marietta High School is a better place because of Tre’.”

Byrd said he plans to continue giving back as he enters college and later the workforce. He said he plans to study business at Morehouse and hopes to someday operate a nonprofit. He also said he is interested in pursuing men’s fashion, adding that while it’s not everything, donning eye-catching, professional wear can make all the difference in a kid with little confidence.

He vowed that one day he’ll return to Metter, and to other under-represented areas, to give back and make a difference.

“You don’t necessarily get a choice, in my opinion, to not do that. Because if you’re one of the few who can think ahead and survive that community and relearn something that’s positive, I feel like you owe it to where you came from to try to make a difference,” Byrd said.

Byrd graduates Sunday, boasting a 3.7 GPA and recognitions from the Atlanta Braves Leadership Institute, Youth Leadership Consortium and poet Judson Mitcham for the Georgia Poet Laureate poetry competition, among others. He said his hobbies include reading, collecting vinyl records and modeling.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas

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