He was the Shaquille O’Neal of his class.
Solid B average; A average when he applied himself.
He was the student in middle school who you wanted to scold at moments, but his charm sometimes led you to making a joke and continuing along with your lesson. He was a member of every crowd or click.
However, as he moved onto high school I lost track of him and another group of students came in which I catered to their educational needs.
March ahead to this young man’s junior year.
Captain of the basketball team.
Known amongst all his peers.
I was blessed to have a conversation with him as he was passing through the middle school. We talked about the changes in his classmates and the course load he was taking. Our relationship allowed me to be brutally honest with him as I insisted he was getting lazy with his grades and needed more rigorous classes.
The young man insisted he was set. He had a plan.
Bowie State University (BSU), a historically black college and university, was where he said he was attending. January of junior year and he had a plan, impressive. I insisted he needed a campus tour to explore all the activities there were on campus because I knew he would strive in the campus community.
He shared he had never been to campus yet. I gave him a few encouraging words and stated a few people who were affiliated with the university that may be able to help him out.
January of senior year I asked him how things were looking for Bowie State. The plan was written in pencil and SATs were still on the back burner. No application had been filled out. Still, no campus visit.
I chirped at him like a father would have chirped at their child. Then, I let him go.
May of senior year, the young man did not have the academic standing to attend BSU and was scrambling to go somewhere because he knew college was necessary, but he had no idea how to get there, figuratively and literally.
The scenario just described occurs too often in too many school districts across the nation today. In spite of yearning to be college ready, many students are not sure how to plan to get into college. When parents lack those soft skills and cannot provide certain things for their children, teachers easily pick up on the discrepancies and give a helping hand.
But…when it comes down to planning and paying for college students are forced to sink or swim.
There needs to be something in place to assist students in the follow through of making it all the way to college (or a career), but it cannot be done only in the guidance office. I hate to chime in a clique, but It takes a village to raise a child.
Somewhere down the line this young man needed to visit BSU while he was a junior to see and experience all that was available to him. In that visitation, questions should have risen about admission requirements, college life, and financial reality.
Joining the uncomforted zone
I knew what needed done, but I never offered to walkthrough the admission application with him. I was either copying papers, focusing on the next day’s lesson, or preparing for my own athletic practice.
I’ll beat myself up over this one for a while because I know his potential is beyond what most can ever imagine. However, I know what I need to do to see the next child successful.
I must call the parent, talk with an admissions advisor to visit, and go beyond that basic step.
Teachers cannot only tell their students they care, but it must be shown through actions.
To know one certain individual, we had another child fall through the cracks of public education at the end of the journey.
After learning of this unfortunate mishap, a group of teachers worked with the young man to apply to another, smaller school. The young man got into the school, but it could have gone the other way.
Playing chance with a student’s future is too risky. Thankfully, it worked out for this young man.