The student that got to me…a ramble


Reminded of a former student today. He used to check in via e-mail after he graduated when I was at NHS (but, with the move to OK about 4 years ago I’ve lost contact). See, Greg didn’t have much of a support system at home: mom left when he was a tot, Dad was in & out of trouble, & Grandpa (who basically raised him) had passed away after a battle with cancer a year before Greg ended up in my 1st hour class. He was living with an uncle to finish HS & it was not a loving arrangement, more of a grudging responsibility from what I gathered. Uncle provided the roof, but Greg cared for himself.

Greg was fairly bright, but worked a lot. As in full-time hours outside of school in order to keep his POS car going, buy groceries & such. So he was late to class…a lot. 

He NEEDED the credit, he wanted the credit, but he was exhausted quite often – cue thoughts of my husband’s senior year & how he almost wasn’t allowed to graduate due to being late to his English class one too many times.

I was determined that this kid would NOT fall victim to an attendance rule – so I called him from my desk phone just about every morning 30 minutes before school with “get moving or you’re going to be late!” – someone had to demonstrate to this kid that HE mattered; that success, while difficult, was possible.  That he had someone on the sidelines for him this time.

Greg was my choice for the yearly “Personal Choice Award” that year. If you aren’t familiar with the program, each teacher chooses one student that stood out for them. Could be academics, grit, overcoming personal obstacles, etc. Pretty open, but the thing that makes it cool is that each kid gets the reason read aloud as they receive their award. 

It’s probably my favorite awards ceremony because the recipients are all so very different.

Greg told me his dad was coming & I watched as his hopeful eyes became a bit troubled as his seat was empty when things started. But his dad came in just after the lights dimmed (whew!). I can’t express how much I wanted to growl at the man for being late, but he DID make it & he DID beam in pride over his boy as the emcee read aloud my blurb about Greg’s grit and impressive determination. It mattered to Greg that his dad be proud & I’m glad he got to see that look from him that day. 

Greg did graduate & we parted ways with a promise from him to e-mail if he ever needed an ear. For two years, nothing. Then out of the blue, I get an e-mail telling me he had moved several hundred miles south & was slowly working his way through community college in his new town.

I was so proud of him! Most who graduated from that school take community college for granted & I knew he had to make choices to make this work. 

A few months later, while in town for a family event, he came by the school. From there, it was an e-mail every few months or so updating how school was going, the new girl he met, how that POS car he kept running due to his knowledge of mechanics and just sheer luck finally gave up the ghost & he was able to get a much more reliable one. 

Then I moved rather unexpectedly mid-year.  My spouse went on a lark interview just to stay fresh in the process & was offered an amazing opportunity. It was a whirlwind six weeks of packing up our home & moving our family out of state.

I never got to tell Greg. It breaks my heart a bit to have disappeared on him. I guarantee he found out when an e-mail came back “undeliverable”.  So I became just one more person who left him behind. And I really hate that. 

I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to say I’m sorry. Or hear if that girl became his wife. Or if he ever got that degree he was working toward. 

Still, on mornings like this one, I look out my back window at the wild mustangs that roam behind us & think about those kids I worried about most…and Greg always tops the list. 

I hope you are doing well my young friend.


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