From Bullied to Celebrated: Meet UCHS 'Warrior' Nathan Turner
Watch UCHS Junior Nathan Turner on Tuesday, April 7, on Paramount Network's Ink Master: Turf War.
Click the video below for a "Sneak Peek" of the show.
(Viewers beware: tattoo artists tend to swear a bit, so the show may not be appropriate for younger children.)
Dealing with epilepsy since birth, Nathan Turner has not had it easy.
By Nancy Cambria
Director of Communications
He’s been through more than 45 surgeries. This past summer, he was told by his doctors to wear a helmet all the time to protect his skull in case he suffered a seizure and hit his head. He’d already fallen dozens of times, once cutting his face so severely he needed stitches.
In August, when his junior year started at University City High School, his life turned more difficult. On the first day that he wore the helmet to school, a few students made fun of his royal blue medical helmet. They heckled him, and worse.
It was devastating for Nathan - an upbeat young man who typically takes things in stride. His mom, Siglindy Willams, recalls him running into the house and sobbing. That night, she wrote a passionate Facebook post asking people for kindness and to understand Nathan’s condition. It went viral.
It took less than a day for the U. City Schools community to spring into action. Many students and staff at the high school had worked hard to create a culture of love and inclusion. They were shocked by the actions of a few. Bullying would not be tolerated.
“When I say they nipped it in the bud - woosh, they did,” Williams said.
UCHS football and basketball players immediately began making sure Nathan felt safe, included and well at school. Players joined him for lunch and walked him to class. As word spread about Nathan’s condition and what happened to him, it wasn’t long before he had a bit of a fan club at the high school - and then he became a bit of a television celebrity.
First, Fox 2 News’ Elliot Davis visited Nathan at University City High School on March 9, 2020. It was Nathan’s last day of school before another scheduled surgery - his 46th. (See video at end of story)
The entire high school community surprised him with an end-of-the-day pep rally to wish him well with his surgery. Students made posters and stood outside their classroom doors and cheered Nathan as others marched him through the school’s hallways. Davis filmed it all and put it on his very popular Facebook page.
The entire high school community surprised him with an end-of-the-day pep rally to wish him well with his surgery. Students made posters and stood outside their classroom doors and cheered Nathan as others marched
him through the school’s hallways.
Nathan’s surgery in March was very successful. He healed easily without any expected complications. He was scheduled to be back at school on April 7th had it not been for the coronavirus, which closed all of the region’s school buildings.
But Nathan’s celebrity status continues. Remember that Facebook post his mom wrote in August after he was bullied? Well, producers of a reality television show on the Paramount Network show saw it. They messaged Williams and invited her and Nathan to be on the show, Ink Master: Turf War. The show featured Nathan and other children and adults also required to wear helmets for medical conditions.
The Ink Masters - who are tattoo artists by trade - competed against one another to customize medical helmets for Nathan and the others. They were told to create “a personalized piece of art that looks incredible from all angles.”
The show, taped at its Newark, N.J. studio, is scheduled to run on Tuesday, April 7 on The Paramount Network. (See the sneak peek at the top of the page.)
The show not only highlights the artistry of the tattoo professionals but brings valuable attention to the unfair stigma that many people have to bear while dealing with a disability that makes them look different or stand out.
Nathan, who was asked to keep the helmet under wraps until the show aired, was presented with a custom helmet created by Jerrel Larkins. The helmet is designed like a basketball to highlight his passion for the game. It bears the word “Warrior” in gothic text to indicate the strong path Nathan has taken in his life.
Williams said the bullying that happened to her son was a result of ignorance.
“The U. City community is definitely not like that,” she said. “This is just something that happened. U. City rallied to make things better for Nathan.”
She said she hopes the show will remind everyone of Nathan’s strength and inspiration.
“A lot of people think Nathan got his strength from me,” Williams said. “In reality, I draw my strength from him. He is definitely a warrior.”
Nathan Turner and friends during University City High School "Pride Walk" on March 9, 2020.