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The First Graduate

On Wednesday, high school athletes around the country put pen to paper and signed Letters of Intent.

If you’re not familiar with this event, it is when the kids who have worked their hineys off for years and years sign the dotted line and commit to play their respective sports at two and four-year colleges.

My school was incredibly blessed.

Fourteen of our guys signed letters.

Three more will be attending prep schools for the first semester and transferring to other colleges to begin their playing careers.

Seventeen young men.

Most of them from impoverished homes.

They are going to college.

With much of their schooling paid for.

Some of our boys are going as far as California.  Others are staying closer to home.

It was an event that was televised through our school’s TV system.  Nearly every class tuned in.

It sent a strong message to the underclassmen.

Work hard.

Study up.

Stay out of trouble.

For me, there was an especially touching moment that day.

A young man I blogged about a few months ago, “T,”…the one who enveloped me in a strong bear hug as I exited a guidance counselor’s office in tears over another student’s situation, signed a football letter.

He will be attending college on a full ride.

This is something that would make anyone’s jaw drop; however, it’s even more incredible when you know the rest of the story.

He will be the first person in his family to graduate from high school.

Yes.  You read that right.

High school.

He was the last person called up to sign his letter during the long ceremony.

I think the applause given to him was the loudest.

His story is inspiring.

As soon as the ceremony was over, I was the first to hug him.

He has grown to mean so much to me…always quick with a greeting every time he sees me.

Now, don’t you dare start commenting with words such as, “You touched his life.”

That, in my opinion, isn’t quite true.

HE is the one who has touched MY life…changed it…with his gentleness…his thoughtfulness…his humbleness.

The average person can turn on the television or open a newspaper and read similar stories…students rising above their circumstances to do great things.

I used to be one of those people.

The stories were so remote.  They didn’t directly affect me.

And then I started working at my school.

And now I’m in the midst of these stories…watching them unfold before my very eyes.

Tears threatened to spill over as I returned to my classroom after the signing ceremony.

I am constantly reminded what an honor it is to do what I do every day.

Teaching is an AMAZING profession.

It’s not about getting a paycheck.

It’s not about having summers off and “supposedly” going home at 3.

For me, it’s not about what I do for my students.

It’s about what they do for ME.

I am different.

Because they are a part of my life.

I am different because I get to watch as young men like “T” become the first in their families to graduate.

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