Graduate Profile: Charles Gaines 

June 5, 2012 - Coolidge High School

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For a majority of his childhood, Charles Gaines was homeless. He and his family slept in cars and lived in more than 10 homeless shelters. As a result, Gaines missed an entire academic year of school. A learning disability would challenge his ability to make up for lost time.

“From fourth grade on, school did not come easily for me,” said Gaines, 18, a senior at Coolidge High School in Ward 4. “Fortunately, when I began middle school, my life began to take a turn for the better.”   

Determined to get good grades, Gaines focused on academics and started to see results. He also became interested in sports – and that would change his life.

“As my grades were improving, football walked in and became an important part of my journey,” Gaines said. “It opened doors that I had not counted on previously.”

Gaines, who was living in Southeast DC, applied to Coolidge as an out-of-boundary student. He was accepted and began playing high school sports, including football. Two years later, Natalie Randolph took over as the Coolidge Colts’ head football coach and put an emphasis on academics. From there, Gaines took off running – in the classroom, metaphorically, and on the football field, literally.

“By my junior year, I was captain of our varsity football team, coached by the first female head coach in history, Natalie Randolph,” Gaines said. “Ms. Randolph put school over everything, and that’s what all kids need. She made me a better person, overall.”

Gaines made honor roll each marking period and will graduate with a 3.0 grade-point average. In addition to classroom achievements, Gaines also had the opportunity to play in the 2011 Turkey Bowl against Dunbar High School and was named most valuable player.

“When I play sports, it makes me want to get good grades,” said Gaines. “I don’t want to let my teammates down.”

Gaines hopes to play football in college next year while he studies to become a social worker or psychologist. He said his life experiences – the triumphant and tragic – shaped him into a leader on the football field and in the classroom.

He knows life could have turned out much differently and is grateful to those who helped him succeed so he can pursue his dream of being the first in his family to graduate from college.   

“I have never allowed my background to become an excuse for not succeeding in life,” Gaines said. “I appreciate my background because it has grown me to become the spirited person I am today by overcoming the odds. Each difficult experience I have gone through has made me more confident in my goal of becoming a social worker.”

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