‘I can see forever from here’, was Dekota Hubbard’s thought when he first arrived in Highmore, South Dakota. The view had not been as clear for he and his little brother, Dawson, when they lived in Kentucky. While the mountains and trees maybe beautiful around Monticello, it was hard to see the light through the dark shadows that hung over them.

The boys lived with their father who had been diagnosed with the later stages of Parkinson’s Disease and being a single parent home prompted Dekota to take on the responsibility of caring for his little brother very early on in life. “It was strange, but I thought of Dawson more like my son than my brother,” said Dekota. Their dad lost his battle with Parkinson’s when Dekota and Dawson were ten and nine years old, and custody of the boys was awarded to an aunt and uncle.

Money was tight and adding two more mouths to a family already struggling to provide for their own children proved to be an additional hardship. The only solution was for everyone to work, which meant no school. A job opportunity in Red Owl, South Dakota lured the Hubbard family to the Midwest. Dekota admitted it was not his favorite place, but it wasn’t long before the family was looking to move again, and their next stop was Highmore.

The Hubbard’s moved in next door to Pam Taylor, and she quickly took an interest in the new family paying particular attention to Dekota and Dawson. Pam is the local postmistress, but she has a background in social services work. She couldn’t ignore the feeling that something just wasn’t right. The boys were not allowed to leave the house much and what she witnessed had her concerned for their well-being.

As Pam and her life-long friend, Ray Kusser, formed a bond with the two young newcomers, it wasn’t long before they noticed Dawson becoming more and more quiet, while Dekota battled with his own sense of depression. “I thought about running, but I could never leave Dawson”, confessed Dekota, “he has always been my inspiration”. The boys finally came to Pam asking if they could live with her and what began as a thirty-day placement in the Taylor home, turned into a two and a half year journey leading to the joyous day she and Ray were given joint custody of Dekota and Dawson. “I was determined to see it through. These boys had come to mean a lot to me, and I wasn’t going to let them down,” shared Pam.

In the meantime, the boy’s aunt and uncle packed up their immediate family and returned to Kentucky. As for Dekota and Dawson, Pam and Ray, along with their friends in South Dakota, had now become their new family. Attending school in Highmore, participating in sports, working summer jobs, and making friends. When it came to ‘being kids’, the Hubbard boys had a lot of catching up to do. Dekota took a special interest in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) at the high school. He was drawn to how FCCLA promoted family and community, and his commitment to the organization led him to accept a position as an officer.

Up to this point there had been little mention of music. While Dekota liked music, he had never had a reason to pursue it. Matter of fact, he could not read music, had not learned to play an instrument, nor any idea he could sing well. It was Dekota’s science teacher, Jackie Knox, who one day encouraged him to sing while her daughter, Maddie, played guitar during study hall his freshman year. Everyone was blown away.

Soon Dekota began doing shows at the Music Store in Pierre, which led to more school performances, community events and fundraisers. This newly discovered talent prompted Ms. Knox to give Dekota his first guitar and in 6 short months he’d taught himself to play. Dekota admits it’s not just music to him, it’s his get away from everything going on around him. Mr. Hubbard has an interesting philosophy about the songs he covers, “When I choose a song, I am reminded someone put their heart and soul into writing it and it’s my job to do justice to that song,” he explained.

As Dekota gained his confidence, he was prompted to enter a talent search. The Dakota Star sponsored by Dakotaland Federal Credit Union hosted during the South Dakota State Fair in Huron was his first opportunity. Dekota and his classmate, Maddie Knox, entered as junior competitors and this was a good experience, but they did not place. The next time Dekota entered the Dakota Star, he had turned 18 and was to compete as a solo performer in the adult division. He vowed to take the competition seriously and began reviewing his 300-song list to find the one he thought would do well in this venue. Unfortunately, it came as a heartbreaking blow when he found out he had not been selected to compete. Pam tried to keep his spirits up, but Dekota took it hard.

Days before the Dakota Star competition was to start, a call came indicating circumstances had changed and Dekota would be admitted to the competition after all. It was exciting news for the Taylor/Hubbard house. In preparation, Dekota settled on the song, Goodbye Time by Conway Twitty. “My voice had matured since the last time I sang at the Dakota Star, so I was looking forward to showcasing the power I was able to produce now,” he explained.

Showcase is exactly what he did. The judges compared Dekota voice to the likes of Cody Johnson, which brought Dekota to tears. Cody Johnson, a country singer-songwriter, was the first concert Dekota attended in-person. It was a gift from Pam, and it left a lasting impression. When the 2021 Dakota Star winner was announced and Dekota heard his own name, he was shocked. As Dekota stepped off the stage his Highmore fan club, made up of family, friends and teachers, were there to help celebrate. Dawson couldn’t wait to proudly declare, “my brother is famous now”!

Even though the Dakota Star awards $1,000 in cash and a recording session with Cathouse Studio in Sioux Falls, Dekota remains realistic about the fact his music is not yet ready to pay the bills. He is looking forward to finishing his senior year and has made plans to attend Mitchell Technical Institute next fall to study Power Sports & Marine Technology. Dekota hopes to continue performing and has interest in forming his own band, but writing music is his next focus.

Today, Dekota is standing tall with no clouds or dark shadows in sight. “South Dakota is my home now”, he claims, and he is beyond grateful to Pam and Ray, along with his Highmore family for what they have done for he and Dawson. Regardless of where this young man is headed, he now knows he can see forever from here.  

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