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Senior Spotlight: Paul Evans-Robinson, Eastern High

Shared from Guilford County Schools Website 

June 6, 2024 - When he needs a new pair of gloves for soccer, Paul Evans-Robinson always chooses black.

He’s worn gloves that have been red, gray, and yellow. But black is it. It’s one of his favorite colors. He’s on his second pair of black gloves, and they go well with anything, especially his school colors of blue and white at Eastern High.

And as goalie for the school’s soccer team for the past four years, he wears his gloves out –– so much so, he can see his fingertips by the end of the season, and he needs athletic tape to keep the gloves tight on his wrists.

But that’s the way Paul is. He goes all out–– from playing sports and managing the basketball team to mentoring students, helping his aging grandfather, and staying for hours after school to finish assignments for his drafting class.

Paul will graduate Sunday with honors from Eastern High. He earned $700,000 in scholarships from several different schools. With the help of two scholarships, Paul will begin at N.C. State this fall and major in architecture.

His love for drafting drew him to architecture. But his love for Eastern High showed him that school is more than just books and black soccer gloves.


‘I Owe My Mother the World’

“Do you ever go home?”

Teachers and staff at Eastern High started asking Paul that question his sophomore year.

School had ended, students had gone home, and Paul was still there. He’d go find Jay White, Eastern High’s athletic director, and ask, “You got something for me to do?”

White would always find something for Paul to do. Paul didn’t mind whatever it might be. He’d empty trash cans, restock the concession stand, and install the 40-second clock on the football field and put it up for everyone to see on a Friday night.

As the basketball manager, he wouldn’t leave school until he washed the jerseys. And as a student who needed help with math, he stayed after school for tutoring. Sometimes, the work he needed to do for his drafting class kept him at school until 8 p.m.

That kind of discipline has paid off for Paul.

He was the president of Eastern High’s National Honor Society. He also served as the co-president of the school’s Beta Club and the vice president of the school’s chapter in the National Technical Honor Society.

Paul has had that drive since sixth grade at Eastern Middle. That was the first time Paul made the A Honor Roll.

Ask him about that, and he mentions his mom, Daniela Evans.

She works a full-time job in human resources at a medical supply company as she raises Paul and his little brother, Henry, on her own. When they were younger, she also worked part-time at a retail store specializing in furniture and housewares.

At Gibsonville Elementary, she had to speak to Paul’s teachers several times because he was, as Paul says, “acting the fool.”

But when he made the A honor roll at Eastern Middle, he saw how proud his mom was. He felt how proud he was. He knew then he needed to change and get serious about school.

“There were only a few of us African-American kids in a predominantly white school, and we all acted the same,” Paul says today. “Well, my mom told me, ‘You got to want to be something in life because I’m not always going to be there for you. You got to want it.’

“I owe my mother the world, and once I got to middle school, everything turned around. I got locked into school, and that’s what any mother can ask for. To be the best you can be, continue to have fun, but know there are always consequences in life.”


A Busy Life

Teachers and administrators at Eastern High see Paul as the student face of the school.

And it’s not just because he’s there all the time, and he’s a big part of three honor societies.

First, he was involved with a mentor group called The Shop. The group meets twice a month for an hour at a time, and anywhere from 15 to 30 students gather to talk about the challenges they face and how they can help one another.

Second, Paul played three sports. He excelled at soccer, a sport he has played since second grade. He was the team’s captain this past season.

He also was a distance runner for the track and field team, and he’s been running 800 meters, the mile and the 4x800 for the team since his freshman year.

Then there’s football.

He punted and kicked three seasons for the Wildcats, and since soccer and football season overlap, he’d run back and forth between practices. Sometimes, he’d miss soccer practice for football. Other times, he’d miss football practice for soccer.

Yet, he hardly ever got on the field. He was Eastern High’s third-string kicker and punter. Why he stayed on the team, though, had nothing to do with football.

“In my heart, I feel like quitting shows you’re done with it, and I don’t want to be a part of that,” Paul says. “I wasn’t going to leave my family on that field, and if I quit, that would show my cowardice. That’s not who I am.”

Now, to basketball.

Paul knew he couldn’t play basketball at Eastern High because of the time commitment and his participation in three other sports. But he loves basketball. His family loves basketball. And at 6-feet-2, he’d have people ask him often why he didn't play.

“I play soccer,” he’d respond.

But he wanted to stay involved with Wildcat Basketball somehow. So, he began managing the varsity team. He did it for three seasons. Other than washing the jerseys, he kept the statistics during the game and helped the coaching staff with whatever they needed.

At NC State, he hopes he can be one of the managers for the basketball or soccer teams. Like he did at Eastern High, he wants to stay involved with sports he’s passionate about.

Yet, there was a time when Paul lost his inexhaustible drive. A teacher at Eastern High helped him find it again.


Calling Dr. Jones 

It was late spring of his sophomore year, and during a soccer tournament in Atlanta with his club team, Paul sprained his right hip flexor. He could hardly walk, and he had to work with a physical therapist from May until September to get better.

The injury put Paul in, as he says, “a dark place.” His grades fell, and he couldn’t participate in summer football and soccer workouts. He couldn’t do anything, not even be useful around the school.

Dr. Antavius Jones, a math teacher and the advisor for the Beta Club, helped lift him out of his funk. He talked to Paul, mentored Paul, and encouraged him to keep pushing

“There is no reason for you to give up,” Jones told Paul. “Your life is just starting.”

Paul took Jones’ advice to heart, and his dark mood dissipated once his injured hip improved. Paul got back to playing soccer and football and continued to overcome the mental side of his “dark place.” 

The following spring, though, Paul and so many other students got a hard lesson in the impermanence of life. Last April, Dr. Jones died at the Cone Health Alamance Regional Hospital in Burlington. His obituary didn’t list a cause of death. Jones was 32.

“When he passed, it tore everybody up,” Paul says. “He is the reason I am here today.”

Yet, the advice Paul got from Dr. Jones still helps him today.

Paul knows that's because of “Opa.”


The Open Arms of Community 

Last fall, Paul started taking care of his maternal grandfather, Raymond Evans Jr., when his grandfather began living with Paul, his mom and his little brother. Paul called Evans “Opa,” German for grandfather.

Evans, a 10-year Army veteran, was battling cancer, and Paul cooked, cleaned, and made his grandfather’s bed.  In late October, when Paul’s soccer season ended, his grandfather’s cancer got worse. Paul realized he had to do even more. To do that, Paul had to change his schedule.

He started getting up at 6 in the morning to fix his grandfather’s breakfast, get him to the bathroom and make sure he had everything he needed for the day before Paul went to school.

With his busy school schedule, Paul wouldn’t get home until way after dinner. He then helped his grandfather shower and get him ready for bed. But sometimes, Paul’s caregiver work wasn't over even when he got to bed himself.

Opa would call Paul and tell him he needed to go to the bathroom once again. Sometimes, his grandfather would call him dozens of times. Paul remembers waking up after midnight and hearing his grandfather’s cane rapping on his bedroom door for help.

His grandfather died in late March at the VA Hospital in Durham. He was 66. On a Sunday, two days before his death, Paul visited his grandfather. His grandfather’s eyes were closed, and he couldn’t speak. Paul did. He had something to say.

“I love you, Opa,” he said. “I’ll see you again.”

Family and friends, staff at Eastern High and his last season running track for the Wildcats helped Paul get through that tough emotional time. They also taught Paul an important lesson: Being a part of a community means giving back and always looking out for others.

Paul will take that spirit to NC State.

“It’s weird how life works,” Paul says. “I feel like it was just yesterday that I was in sixth grade. Now, I’m about to leave. But not forever though. It’s just goodbye for now. I’ve got goals. I’ve got another four years ahead of me, and I’ve got a chance to make my mom proud once again and so many others.”