Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To My Seniors...

After what has seemed like forever to many of you, you’re about to graduate from high school. Think back to the great times you’ve had with your friends. Back to when you thought you’d die because a certain class or a certain assignment was blowing your mind. All the challenges you’ve had to face up to now. Feels good doesn’t it?

I remember when I graduated high school…and no, it wasn’t THAT long ago. I went with friends. Parents didn’t go. I didn’t even realize what was going to hit me in the face three months later. I was happy to take that walk across the stage…because a couple years before that, I almost quit high school.

When I attended Sam Rayburn as a student, I was a punk. I worked at a fast food place, got into trouble a lot, and skipped school. I didn’t care about my grades. My GPA sucked. My parents divorced and it kept spiraling downhill. My mother took my little brother and sister and moved up north. That left me and my other little sister, who had to move in with my dad. We enrolled in at Stephen F. Austin in HISD.
School there was different. I made friends and one teacher, Mr. Kendrick, got into my business one day (I was in his radio and TV class). He asked how I was doing. Figured me out pretty quickly. With different friends and more of a family environment, I started working harder at school. Grades got better…slowly, until one day my English teacher called out our averages for the six weeks. “100,” was what he said after calling my name. I was stunned. “How can he have a hundred,” a student asked. “He’s done everything and didn’t miss anything on his test,” said Mr. Hromas.

Well, Mr. Kendrick and Mr. Hromas were across from each other in the hall. Mr. Kendrick taught English, yearbook, Radio and TV, and coached soccer. Kendrick found out that I had done well and asked me to be on the yearbook staff next year…my senior year. In short, I said yes and when we came back from summer vacation, I also had three honors classes, thanks to Hromas and Kendrick.

My senior year was filled with yearbook work, prom committee work, a tough English class, a cool government class (we hosted the city’s mock Republican national convention downtown), and a job at Krogers. I learned that year that, when you put your mind to something, you can achieve it. I also learned that I needed to hit college because I didn’t want to live like my parents did (neither of them graduated high school). I raised my GPA to graduate 107 out of 501.

So, I went to college. I paid for all six years myself (thanks to scholarships that I earned, grants that I qualified for, loans that I applied for and the Army). During that time, I traveled to Europe twice (once as a vacation, the second time I studied there for a summer), and joined the Army (ran out of scholarship money!). When I finished college I had two degrees and a teaching certificate. I chose teaching. Can you figure out why? Yes, I teach English…I’ve taught yearbook and newspaper too…remind you of anyone I’ve mentioned?

Today, I’m in the middle of a hot desert typing this to you. Why? Well, I tell this story to all my students (it’s MUCH longer when I tell it to you in class) at the end of each year. I want my students to know that if school is tough, or life isn’t handing you what you want, you work harder and smarter and earn what you want. I did. Anyone can get that diploma, get that higher education, get that awesome job that you love, and have a nice life. Money isn’t, and shouldn’t be the problem. Don’t EVER let anyone tell you otherwise.

As I said, I almost didn’t graduate high school. And I said that this story is a short version...you should’ve seen me in middle school! Horrible! I failed two grades because I didn’t care.

I’ve missed most of a school year with you. The Army pulled my unit’s number and I had to leave. I remember when some of you were freaking out over the Beowulf literary analysis assignment and telling me you’ve never done anything like that. I remember some of you guys giving me weird looks when I was wielding a sword in front of you while we were talking about Beowulf and Grendel. Well, each of you learned and completed that essay didn’t you? What you have ahead of you is another challenge. Whether you’ve chosen college, the military, or entering the workforce, I wish you all the best in your endeavors. I’m about 8,000 miles away, but I haven’t forgotten about you. Remember what you’ve learned, where you’ve come from, and always know what you’re going for. Congratulations on your graduation!!

A big thank you to my North Shore seniors. You know who you are. Those who came together to create the 2005 NSMS Stampede yearbook staff. Winners of the district's first Columbia Scholastic Press Association Silver Crown award for student journalism. I know one of you is going into college as an English/journalism major. You'll all see me again. Soon.

I’d like to hear from you…where you’ve decided to attend college, major, job, etc. You can respond/comment on the blog or email me. Take care of yourselves. Enjoy your summer.

Mr. Burke

1 comment:

  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.