By Richard E. Noble
In our little local newspaper, the Franklin Chronicle, there was a story on the front page last week. It was about a little girl who just graduated from one of our tiny little High Schools.
Her picture was on the front page along with that of her proud mother. It was a neat little story. This little girl had graduated first in her class. She was the Valedictorian.
She had a grade point average that was ludicrous. I mean on a possible 4.0 she had 4.5 or something. How the hell can that be? Well she not only completed and excelled at the regular high school stuff but she took preparatory college courses in her “free” time.
It was noted in the little article that she had received a couple of “scholarships”. She got a $1000 dollars from the local old ladies do-gooder society, and $500 from the coke machine fund that comes from the coke machine in the school cafeteria and $25 from the Mayor or something.
I didn’t think much about the story until the next morning when my wife and I decided to go down to the local greasy spoon for some biscuits and gravy.
The little girl that waited on us looked a lot like the cute little valedictorian whose picture was in the paper. My wife asked her if it was she. It was.
Now that didn’t upset me either. Why shouldn’t the local valedictorian be working and delivering grits and gravy to the likes of me and the wife? It is good for kids to work and have jobs.
But as I sat there I began thinking - a lot of it about myself and my family - but I’ll get to that in a minute. The first thing that I thought about was that the article made no mention of the little girl’s father. So I don’t know maybe it was just a glitch or sloppy reporting on the part of the paper. That is not uncommon. I work for the Chronicle so I think I know. But let’s not get into that.
As we chatted affably with the little girl my wife whispered; “You would think that the local Valedictorian would have a scholarship to FSU or someplace?”
It seems that she was going to be attending the local Community Collage. She was studying nursing. Nursing? Does America need nurses? Dahh … I guess!
This brought me to my own family and my personal career. My older sister was Salutatorian from her High School. Our local Massachusetts High Schools had ten times the graduating class as this little Florida community. My sister, who was also a working high school student, got no collage scholarships. Back in those ancient times girls really weren’t expected to go to collage anyway. My sister never mentioned this “slight” but I have often thought about it. For the most part of her life as a single mom, she has worked not one, not two but three different jobs in order to survive.
My older brother was Valedictorian of his graduating class. He, like this little girl, had an impossible grade point average because he passed exams for classes he never even enrolled in. He had the highest grade point average in the history of this high school. He got no offer from colleges either. He was offered scholarship but not because of his academic achievements. He was also an athletic high school superstar. But he turned them down because he was too practical and realized that he was never going to make it to the Boston Celtics. He worked his way through a couple of years of college on a special “work-release” program at North Eastern University.
I didn’t do all that well in high school but I did get to a Community College and at the end of my first year I was first in my class. I went to the financial aid department and spoke to Dean So and So. When I told him that I had spent my entire life savings on my first year at college, he told me to go to the local bank and get a loan. I was also the child of a struggling single mom - my dad had died when I was just turning into a teenager. I took this comment by the Dean of “Who gives a shit” as a total lack of interest on his part so I dropped out and got a job driving a truck.
When I had saved enough money I went back to that same Community College. It was a two year school and when I finished, I was once again first in the class. Via this great achievement I received no offers to other universities. I then applied for a college loan as I had been advised previously. I needed at least $3000. On the first week of admissions to the local collage I was called to the student loan department. I was informed that though I was not granted the $3000 that I had applied for - I was granted $300. I told the nice lady to give the $300 to an applicant whom they felt more deserving and I dropped out of college and got a job.
As you can probably understand, I have always been rather skeptical about this Nation’s supposed commitment to “Higher Education”.
My wife says that my attitude is just sour grapes and my story is ancient history. She says that anyone who wants to go to college in the U.S. can do so if they want to. I say BULLSHIT!
But don’t get me wrong, this little girl downtown wasn’t griping. She was as happy as a Lark. She was all smiles and as proud of herself as could be. And as for me all this stuff is all over - way over.
But I know how I felt way back when. I had given it my best and no one gave a flying flip.
So what do I expect? Do I think that this little girl from Carrabelle or Apalachicola should be going to Harvard or Yale because she was first in her graduating class of fifty?
No, I guess not. But doesn’t she deserve something? You know from the greatest nation in the whole world - the nation that “believes” in its children and thinks that education is the salvation and cure for all of mankind and blaa, blaa, blaaa?
I left the kid a two dollar tip ... my wife made me put down another buck. And so it goes.