A car ride that changes my life
A week after I graduate from high school, I’m in Coach Randolph Potts’ car on the way to Wingate.
We’re going to meet with the college’s president – and I’m pretty nervous.
I’d always figured I’d maybe go to USCL after high school – leaving the state for college wasn’t something I ever thought about.
My parents hadn’t gone to college, but they valued education. It was USCL or the mill, I figured.
But that’s before Coach Potts and my principal come up to me after graduation – and ask me to take a trip that totally changes the course of my life and my children’s lives – and probably even my grandchildren’s lives.
That night, these two men give me the greatest gift educators can give a child. They give me a vision for a life my limited experiences could never have imagined.
And they go out of their way to put me on a track that can lead me to that life.
I find out later, that right after the Wingate president speaks at our class’ graduation, they go up to him and tell him I’m a young man his school needs to find a way to help.
They tell him I’m a good student, a pretty good basketball player and a person who, with a little help, can succeed in college.
That’s when he tells them to bring me over the next week to see if Wingate can help.
Now three educators are going out of their way to help me – without my even asking.
* * *
Coach Potts had helped me – like a lot of other students – since the day I walked into Indian Land High.
He coached me in football, basketball and baseball and taught me a lot about setting goals and working hard to achieve them, about the importance of being prepared, about how to win and lose with class.
And he pushed me in academics, too.
When he found out I was taking a study hall instead of his chemistry class, he got someone to cover his class, came to find me and talked me into dropping the study hall and adding chemistry.
He knew something I didn’t, something he didn’t even mention to me when he was arm-twisting me into that chemistry class – colleges expect college-bound high school students to take chemistry.
And obviously, long before he met with the Wingate president on my graduation day, he was already trying to figure out a way to arm-twist me into college.
* * *
A few hours after our ride to Wingate, Coach Potts and I are on our way home.
And I’m riding home with Wingate paid for – something my parents just couldn’t have afforded. I’m going out of state to college in the fall.
I’m going on a half academic scholarship and a half basketball scholarship – if I make the team.
And the things that trip make possible for me are just too mind-boggling to comprehend.
I meet my future wife Susan at college, a girl who pushes me to do more than just finish two years at Wingate.
I get a bachelor’s in math education, then a master’s.
I teach math. I coach – not just football and basketball, but tennis, a sport I know absolutely nothing about.
I become an assistant principal, a principal, a district technology administrator.
I even get my doctorate and become a superintendent.
I have two sons who grow up never doubting they’ll go away to college – and finish.
And it all starts with a coach and a principal and dozens of other teachers who see potential in a boy. A boy who can’t fathom the great things his mind – and an education – can do for him and his family.
Wow! The difference teachers make. The futures they shape.
* * *
The drawings and essays in this publication represent hundreds of drawings and essays submitted by our students.
And as you see and read the winning entries in this year’s My Favorite Teacher Art and Essay Contest, you’ll see teachers who make a difference over and over. Teachers who help children see and experience and do things that make their futures better.
Thank you, Lancaster News and other businesses whose support made this contest possible.
And thank you to the thousands of parents and students who take the time to say special thank you’s to teachers across our district this week.