a required taste for the pretentious as all get out





how do you get that far and then just drop out?
June 06, 2004, 5:15 pm

Well Class of 2004, we've made it. The years of studying and working hard have paid off. Let's thank our parents for getting us here.

I scoured the crowd, but I couldn't find him; I had heard he stopped attending classes. He wasn't coming, not that anyone else would come to see him here anyway.

Our Junior year, our Boys' Basketball team went to the State Finals at the Comcast Center...

And it was all thanks to him, the highest scoring point guard in the County. He worked SO hard and cried when they won that game. He had put them there.

Our Senior year saw our Boys' Basketball team go back to the Comcast Center for another try at the State Title.

There were articles and articles written about him, and colleges were interested: "a phenom" they called him, "most natural instincts of any player in county history" they said. Once the word got around that he was stationed at our school from being expelled from another, that he was tardy 26 days in his first period class, that his combined GPA was exactly 2.0 so he could play, the calls stopped. Teachers badmouthed him; no one thought he'd ever make it through without going to jail or getting killed.

I somehow wish the ending was as dramatic; it was just non-existent. He dropped off the face of the earth; stopped showing up for classes, stopped caring at all.

He earned an A in my class his first semester here. He worked his tail off because he was a sophomore in a freshman class and the season was on its way. He wrote pages when I asked for paragraphs; he received perfects on all his tests. He was SMART enough to do whatever he wanted, but once the season was over, his ambition waned.

I couldn't help but think about how proud of him I would've been at graduation last Friday, seeing him walk across the stage, fighting all the things that have ever happened to him: a brother in jail for murder (it happened in front of him), a mother who didn't know if he played basketball or football, a sister with two kids from different fathers, a dad he had never met. I believed in him, and I tried...

As you climb the mountain of your life, know that it will be uphill from here. There is far more to see and experience and know. This is not the end of the line for us.

There are too many stories like his where it was the end of the line in this space for him. I don't know where it falls apart for most of these students, but it does. I wasn't thinking about all the students whose faces were lit up and a bit dazed as they walked across the stage, but I thought of all the kids who never made it there, for whatever reason. It maybe wouldn't mean that much to any of them down the road (I barely remember my high school graduation), but at least they would have finished something they'd started. I don't know all their names, but I knew his, and it hurt. As the speeches droned on, for the first time, I sadly admitted to myself that one of my sons was now a sad statistic on our books, and in my idealistic heart.

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