RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — A Western Dakota Tech student refused to be another statistic and ended up winning the national outstanding technical student award.

He’s just the second student in the school’s history to do so.

Julius Morris has always believed if you work hard and do the right thing, everything will work out.

“No matter what you go through in life, it does not define who you are or who you are going to become. Your circumstances do not define you, you can always be better, ” Corrections Officer Julius Morris said.

Morris grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation; before earning his degree, he was injured in the Army and didn’t know if he’d walk again. He defied the odds and is now a correctional officer in Rapid City.

“We’re pretty excited to have Julius to join our team here at the Juvenile Service Center,” Commander Joe Guttierez said.

While going to school, Morris worked full-time and took care of his son, and that’s not all.

A regular on the Dean’s List, Morris became only the second-ever Western Dakota Tech student to win the national tech student award, and the first ever with a background in criminal justice.

Because of his life experiences, Morris is able to connect and identify with the kids who he now works with.

“Kids who had some of the same issues he had growing up. When he came to JSC he was an instant role model for our kids we have here,” Guttierez said

Morris’ most important message for any child is to never give up.

“I didn’t have any role models, I didn’t have anything to look forward to. I’m from Pine Ridge, South Dakota and it was tough. A lot of these juveniles here I see exactly what they’re going through, you know because I’ve been there. So the reason I wanted to work here vs the main jail or be a deputy is because I can make a bigger impact.” Morris said

Western Dakota Tech had a record number of graduates in 2023. It hopes to continue growing this upcoming year.