Federal Way athlete heads to prestigious academy

Most high school freshmen have plenty to worry about as they ready for their first day of school.

Most high school freshmen have plenty to worry about as they ready for their first day of school.

Whether it’s making sure to have the coolest new clothes or gadgets, learning how to navigate a new school and new schedule, or just trying to figure out how to fit in during one of the most awkward times of their lives, there’s no doubt that being a freshman is tough.

For former Lakota Middle School student Yohane Griffin, all of those challenges will be compounded as his first day of high school will be at the Montverde Academy, a prestigious school located in Montverde, Florida. The youngster’s first day is Aug. 27 and he says he’s ready for the new experiences this opportunity will provide.

“It feels good, but I’m a little nervous,” Yohane said. “I’m just a little nervous because it’s going to high school, but it will be a good experience.”

Yohane was brought to the attention of Montverde because of his excellent academics and athletic ability, said his mother, Paula Griffin.

“A friend of ours back east was trying to get him connected (to schools) with some of his track stuff,” she said. “Someone happened to know the soccer coach at Montverde, and the coach saw some videos of him doing soccer when he was in Europe last summer.”

Yohane also attended a soccer camp at Montverde this summer, which helped seal the deal on his attending the prestigious international academy, his mother added.

“He had the academics, they liked what they saw with track and soccer, and we went from there,” she said.

On the academic side, Yohane is currently a National Honor student, and was ranked second academically out of 239 students in his class here in Federal Way. For soccer, he played with the Federal Way Football Club, and most recently, has been playing with the Seattle Sounders Academy program, developing his skills as a forward/winger with both organizations. On the track side of things, Griffin has been a participant in the Hershey track and field program, and represented Federal Way at the national meet in 2012, taking second place overall in the 200 meter dash that year.

For his mother, having Yohane head to Florida to start his high school career carries a lot of mixed emotions, she said.

“He’s the youngest of my four sons. It’s exciting, but to have him leave and go off, I get knots in my stomach,” she said. “He’s my baby. But I’m grateful … Given his start in life, to see what he’s accomplished so far, I’m really appreciative and thankful he has this opportunity.”

The start in life she referenced is that Yohane was born in the African country of Malawi, one of the more troubled and underdeveloped countries on that continent. Paula Griffin, who traveled the world as a missionary at one point, adopted her son and his three brothers, Yona, Moses and Joseph, and brought them home to Federal way. Throughout the time she’s raised the boys, she said the Federal Way community has always been a strong network of support.

“We’ve had a lot of support. As a single mom raising four boys, a lot of people have come along to help us,” she said.

Among those Paula Griffin said have been instrumental in her son’s success are Richard Unsworth, his coach from the Federal Way Football Club, Terry Fisher of Washington Youth Soccer, the teachers and coaches at Lakota Middle School, and Barb Tight, who’s organized the Hershey’s track program in Federal Way for a number of years.

“I don’t feel like we’ve done this by ourselves,” she added.

Even with the mix of emotions and the big change in his life coming up, the athlete said he’s ready for this new chapter in his life.

“Im just really looking forward to meeting people from all over the world,” he said.

To learn more about the Montverde Academy, visit www.montverde.org.