Between my life’s joy and pain and sunshine and rain, I’m truly thankful to God for the opportunity to acquire a meaningful and productive high-school education. Acquiring a high-school diploma was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I have a true story to share to let younger folks know that I was on a path of self-destruction, but my education made me alter my mind-set to do what was right, and not allow myself to become a victim of society’s pressures to acquire instant self-gratification.
I had been promoted to the 10th grade for the upcoming school year in my hometown of Savannah. I was extremely happy that I was moving up. I never wanted to repeat a grade because I considered it embarrassing. It was essential for me to have high expectations for myself, and I just did not want to be like everybody else because in many instances trying to be like others can make you become a loser in life.
SINCE I WAS out of school for summer break, I immediately started looking for a summer job. I wanted to purchase decent clothing that would have enhance my self-esteem. My parents were financially challenged and weren’t in a position to purchase the clothing I desired.
After spending a couple of weeks diligently looking for work, I became frustrated and disillusioned about my life in general.
My frustration and disillusionment made me concoct a plan to rob a bank in downtown Savannah.
For a week I scoped out a particular bank to see how difficult it was going to be for me to pull off this robbery. I was extremely confident that I would enter this bank and make off with a large sum of cash – but I wasn’t completely convinced that I could escape without being caught.
In fact, I knew if this robbery wasn’t done with thoughtfulness and precision I would have been killed or caught to be placed behind jail bars for a long time.
I knew once I exited the bank with the money, if I turned and ran left, I would have been running toward the Savannah River, and knew I wouldn’t have been able to swim across without being captured. If I exited the bank and turned right, it would have been necessary for me to run through downtown Savannah – and being a 6-foot-4 black male, it would have been virtually impossible for me to hide from law enforcement.
I didn’t follow through with my plan. It was like completing an equation for a school assignment. I made the intelligent decision to not carry out the robbery.
I STARTED 10TH grade without the new clothing I wanted. But in spite of not acquiring my wants, I did enjoy a fun, wonderful, productive and healthy school year because God definitely had my back, which was truly a blessing for me.
And it became apparent that education was of the utmost importance because it allowed me to evaluate, analyze, critique, weigh options and draw conclusions – in other words, to help me make the right choices. I’m adamant about the fact that education stopped me from committing a criminal act that I would have regretted for the rest of my life.
Also, I’ve learned that dealing with the trials and tribulations of life is all about balancing life’s equation. Trying to balance life’s equation can be difficult, but it’s much easier when you’re properly educated. Education is the key to overall success in America.
A high standard of education must become an obsession for all Americans. They must acquire it or die trying to get it.
(The writer is a former Richmond County public school teacher with more than 30 years of service. He lives in Augusta.)