Years ago when I was working here as a reporter, I got a call from a teacher from Hugh Boyd secondary. She asked if I would come down to the school and do a story about of a couple of students who were graduating and being given awards.
Hmmm….can’t say I jumped out of my chair. As commendable as it is, kids graduating from high school with an award is not exactly breaking news — but there was more.
In every way these two boys fit the definition of “at-risk youth.” They struggled academically, socially and personally. The fact they hadn’t dropped out by Grade 10 was a miracle in itself. But they didn’t drop out. Rather, they scraped their way through, stationed in the school’s resource centre, inching their way through their individualized education plans. And their teacher (I wish I could remember her name) was determined to have that recognized.
These students worked for every single mark. And I don’t just mean worked as in they did their homework, but worked in terms of mustering the courage to keep showing up, to battle the many demons in their lives and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I don’t doubt that teachers, like the one who called, were also part of the equation. That kind of commitment to helping a young person believe in themselves can’t be over-estimated.
Anyway, it was a convincing pitch, so I went down to the school, where I sat through a rather modest awards ceremony — it wasn’t a full assembly because they were graduating on their own timetable. Only one of the students was there. The other just didn’t show up, which I was given to understand was often the case. Never mind, the one who was there was beaming — as was his teacher.
I interviewed the young man and asked about his plans for the future. He said he was going to go to a trades school to learn how to repair elevators. It was a job his uncle did, and he was going to follow suit. Had he said he was going to be a neuroscientist, I couldn’t have been more impressed.
The future elevator repair man came to mind as we talked about our front page story this week. Of course there’s a difference. The young men featured in today’s paper are the recipients of a $40,000 Beedie Scholarship. Both are attending UBC, one is studying global resource systems the other, no kidding, neuroscience. But what all these kids have in common is a story of perseverance and resilience. The Beedie Scholarship is specifically for students who have not only proven themselves academically but have experienced adversity.
It’s no secret that the game of life is not always played on a level playing field. A quality public education system goes a long way in giving every kid a chance, but it can’t make up for domestic abuse, poverty, mental illness. Some kids are just dealt a tough hand. But while we might not be able to change that fact, we can at least recognize it.
So, congratulations to the Beedie Scholarship winners, the young man from Boyd and all those courageous young people who manage to claw their way through school — despite some overwhelming odds.Back To Top