|High school diplomas are worth more than a hairstyle |
| Published in The Messenger on 6.8.07 |
This one is for you, Michael Boyd.
You see life through the eyes of an 18-year-old. My tired old eyes are 50 years senior to yours. Hence, a great divide. You and I can look at the same thing and not see the same thing.
Twice in the last two weeks you attended events at Obion County Central High School about the imminent passage of a dress code for students.
At the public hearing at OCCHS on May 29, you told the school board you dropped out of school because you were told you couldn’t wear your long hair mohawk-style in school. Later, in an interview, you told me, “The day they (Union City High School) told me I couldn’t (wear a mohawk), I dropped out of school. I didn’t drop out because I didn’t like school. I dropped out because I’m free.”
The loss of your high school diploma is made even more pitiful because you were a senior within three months of graduation.
There’s another school board event coming up, Michael. I urge you to attend. It will be well worth your time and effort. It will be held at Ridgemont Elementary School 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday.
It is the formal graduation ceremony for adult students enrolled in the GED (General Equivalency Diploma) program offered by the Obion County School Board. GED is a program in which a school dropout enrolls in after-hours adult school with the objective of completing the program and getting the coveted diploma.
This year, 59 men and women, ranging in age from 18 and older, will receive GED diplomas.
“We have three ladies in their 60s that will graduate,” said Sharon Connell, Adult Basic Education director for Obion County School Board.
Graduation is a happy hour of another kind. If you attend, Michael, you will witness an outpouring of joy and happiness — applause, hugs, kisses, cheers — among students, families, friends and well-wishers.
“For some of these people, it’s been a lifelong dream to get their high school diploma,” Mrs. Connell said. “It’s as if they felt incomplete without it, and now they are made whole. For others, the younger folks, it’s a realization they are now adults and cannot find a job without a high school diploma. They’re here because they need to work, take care of their families and children and be self-sufficient. The diploma means a lot. It is a happy time for them.”
Most of those who dropped out did so because of circumstances beyond their control such as a death in the family or other hardship. I daresay none dropped out because they refused to cut their hair or wear appropriate clothes.
But you did, Michael.
You say you are free, but you’re not. You are a slave, shackled by the consequences of a decision that could affect you all the days of your life, unless you correct it as soon as possible. You will find, all too soon, that you are severely limited in job prospects.
I urge you to correct the situation, remedy your mistake. Don’t make yourself suffer because of some misguided stand-your-ground principle.
For inspiration, and for an example of the work ethic, pause and ponder your mother, she who has stood by you, believes in you, sees the goodness in you, has high hopes for you. Candance Boyd is an office manager at E.W. James Supermarket in Union City.
From her I learn you have a brother and sister, both of whom are in North Carolina. Lance Cpl. Jason Boyd, a U.S. Marine, is at Camp Lejeune, N.C., awaiting deployment to Iraq. Katie Boyd lives near Fayetteville.
I learn, too, that your father, Sam, a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Army, is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He has served two tours of duty in Iraq and is on his first tour in Afghanistan.
Your mother and he were married 18 years before their divorce in 2001. Your father remarried.
You and your mother moved here two years ago. She said your plan was to graduate from Union City High School and join the military. It seems you wanted to be a helicopter pilot like your father, and you talked about it a lot.
“Since he dropped out of school, he doesn’t talk about it any more,” she said. “He wanted to enlist, but he can’t now. I think you have to be a high school graduate and I don’t think they accept GED.”
She said that when the two of you came here, you wore baggy pants and long hair and all your clothes were black. “He has actually changed for the better,” she said. “Back at Fort Bragg, gangs and drugs were horrible. He moved in with me, we came here and he started dressing better. He wore shirts with collars and got rid of those awful baggy pants. He even bought a new suit.”
She said you and your circle of friends are basically good kids, that none have been in trouble, that you all mean well. “I’m sure it’s the way they dress — the dyed hair, the mohawk, the clothes — that turns people off. And they enjoy the attention, of course,” she said. “He talked about getting a mohawk for months, but I said, ‘No, definitely not.’
“Then one day he came home from a friend’s house wearing his hair mohawk-style, and it had been dyed two different colors, an awful red and a dark color. He went to school the next day and I got a phone call to come pick him up. It was because his hair was two colors, bright red and outrageously wrong. I’m sure it’s because so many of the other kids at school had seen him and said, ‘How come he can wear his hair that color and we can’t?’
“I went and bought some hair dye and dyed his hair black. The next day, I was at work and got a phone call from him. He said, ‘Mom, I’m at home.’ He was told (at school) his hair was not appropriate, that he would have to cut it or be suspended. He chose not to cut it, and now he’ll have to live with his decision.
“It is sad. I just hope he gets his GED and all the education he can get. I hope he grows up, gets his GED and eventually goes into the military. That would be good for him. I think every 18-year-old ought to spend two years in the military.
“He’s a very smart kid. He can do anything with computers, and he loves history. He can discuss all the wars. I hope this is just a phase he’s going through. I pray that it will pass,” she said.
You are a young man, Michael. You can do most anything. You could buckle down and study and do all the hard work necessary to one day have your high school diploma in hand. And from there, the sky’s the limit for an ambitious, hard-working young man.
You can do it. But do it before it’s too late.
Your potential is worth a lot more than a silly mohawk haircut.