Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

Two Days, Two Worlds, Two Graduations, Part III: Tomorrow Isn’t Promised

May 2011: As I planned our 4th graduation at work, I attended my 2nd.  This high school dropout had earned his Master’s Degree!

            And somehow, someway, I recalled my promise to my first students to attend their graduation. The 2nd graders with whom I did my student teaching would now be finishing their junior year in high school.

            I searched Facebook and their school’s newsletters and  managed to locate ten of them. Although three were now attending school in other districts, other states even, the others were still together attending South High. Surely there were more; I just couldn’t find them.

            Consistent with my own personal Facebook policy of not befriending colleagues, students or minors, I resisted the temptation to contact any of them. I simply set a notification in my email account to remind me of this on May 1 the following year. . . .

. . . . and May 1 arrived right on schedule, along with the email reminder I had programed a year earlier. I wrote South High’s principal, recounting the dialog from my last day of student teaching, asking for one ticket to attend. A few days later, South’s secretary called me and granted my request. I would be going to see my 2nd graders graduate from high school!

            As it turned out, the city’s graduation and South’s graduation fell on two consecutive days. Surely it would follow a long week of preparations. There would be the graduation rehearsal on Wednesday, which was more work than the ceremony itself. Thursday would be the Big Event, which would make for a long day and a late night. Friday morning would be a labor-intensive teacher work day, which would be followed by South High’s graduation.

            The redeeming feature of this was that I would be required to neither plan nor participate in anything Friday night. For the first time since I watched my own high school class graduate without me, I would be attending a commencement ceremony as a passive observer.

            Wednesday’s rehearsal had all the anticipated  drama that comes with bringing 100 teens from all the neighborhoods in the city to work as an orchestrated unit. A gown turned up missing. People were missing tickets. A few had issues with each other, and one girl was sent home for mouthing off to staff one too many times.

             Thursday came.  Other than a few minor problems, like the sound man showing up 10 minutes before the start, the city graduation went on without a hitch. My entire staff was present for the traditional dinner with the boss. I was the man of the hour after I told everybody they didn’t have to show up to work until 9 am the next morning.

            Unfortunately, Friday afternoon, I received word that one of our graduates had been killed overnight. Lamarr had taken a pass on the ceremony, stating that he didn’t want to spend money on new clothes. As it turns out, he was shot in the head while sitting in his own car. Two suspects were sighted running from the scene.

            This would be the second graduation marred by a student fatality during my tenure as supervisor. A few years earlier, two students died violently in the days leading up to the big date.

            “Tomorrow isn’t promised,” a student once told me as I pleaded with him to take his education more seriously. The student, Thomas, lived in a housing project with his mother, who was widowed after Thomas Sr. was shot at the neighborhood KFC.

            To the average middle-class, forty-something white guy, this would seem to be incentive to get an education and get the hell out. However, to a student who attended second rate schools his entire life, lived in third rate housing as long as he could remember, and scraping by with his fractured family in the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad, the connection between education and future prosperity may not be apparent. The reality of a college degree to an 18-year-old man reading at a 4th grade level may, in fact, be a naive educator’s pipe dream. Thomas was literally trying to survive on a daily basis while enjoying what he could out of what he figured to be a short life.

Our fallen alumni and former students are a testament to this:

Steven (Graduate, Class of 2003): Died in surgery while doctors attempted to remove an old bullet.

Iesha (former student): Killed in a car accident while drag racing along with a friend and two of their children.

Kenneth (prospective graduate): Shot and killed while standing on a corner with friends.

Jhmari (Graduate, Class of 2009): Killed by police days before graduation after drawing a firearm on them.

Derrell (former student): Beaten to death by two men in a basement.

Tasherra (former student): Killed by gunfire while riding in a car.

Nermin (Graduate, Class of 2011): Died of a neurological disorder.

Lamarr (Graduate, Class of 2012): Shot and killed the night of graduation.

Lamarr’s diploma would be presented to his mother posthumously by the center director, who attended the funeral. There is nothing more grievous than a funeral for a child.

To be continued

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2 Responses to “Two Days, Two Worlds, Two Graduations, Part III: Tomorrow Isn’t Promised”

  1. Very touching!

  2. How is your recovery going! Are you back to running yet? Did you and your family have a fantastic summer?

    Best wishes,

    Kim


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