Kevin is, as he mentions, a first generation college student who made the extra-far leap of choosing to go a really, really long way from home (1,995 miles, give or take). His story is absolutely his own even while it echoes a pattern familiar to many first generation students.
When we knew each other, I'd say we had a positive and unremarkable teacher-student relationship. He was an apt, well-mannered, and pretty low-maintenance student. He, I hope, learned and felt secure in my classroom (I think he did). I remember him being on the quiet side, though I heard that changed the next year, to the mild surprise and great delight of my colleagues.
That, actually, is the thing that stuck in my mind about Kevin for a long time: what happened after I knew him. Apparently, right about the time I moved away, he commenced a serious personal growth spurt. The teachers who followed me told me stories about our mutual student that made it seem like the person they were teaching was not quite the same kid I had taught. From far away, I wondered where he was heading and hoped that GRMS was giving him a space to try out, maybe even find, the still-undefined aspects of himself that would become the biggest and best parts of who he is.
Kevin's apparent shift in 8th grade is not really a surprise. All he was doing was getting ready to be himself. It's exactly what every student I ever taught is always doing, and it's one of our greatest privileges and responsibilities as educators to be around for that and provide some of the experience and tools they will build into themselves. This project make me so proud, but not because I have any delusions that I was a big influence on this kid's life. At most, I was one rung on the ladder he climbed to become himself.* That's the job of every teacher Kevin ever had, along with his parents and family and friends and community. Be some part of the ladder. Help him be ready.
*Which, I assume, he's still in the process of doing. At least I hope so, because I sure as hell still am.