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The First Graduate

On Wednesday, high school athletes around the country put pen to paper and signed Letters of Intent.

If you’re not familiar with this event, it is when the kids who have worked their hineys off for years and years sign the dotted line and commit to play their respective sports at two and four-year colleges.

My school was incredibly blessed.

Fourteen of our guys signed letters.

Three more will be attending prep schools for the first semester and transferring to other colleges to begin their playing careers.

Seventeen young men.

Most of them from impoverished homes.

They are going to college.

With much of their schooling paid for.

Some of our boys are going as far as California.  Others are staying closer to home.

It was an event that was televised through our school’s TV system.  Nearly every class tuned in.

It sent a strong message to the underclassmen.

Work hard.

Study up.

Stay out of trouble.

For me, there was an especially touching moment that day.

A young man I blogged about a few months ago, “T,”…the one who enveloped me in a strong bear hug as I exited a guidance counselor’s office in tears over another student’s situation, signed a football letter.

He will be attending college on a full ride.

This is something that would make anyone’s jaw drop; however, it’s even more incredible when you know the rest of the story.

He will be the first person in his family to graduate from high school.

Yes.  You read that right.

High school.

He was the last person called up to sign his letter during the long ceremony.

I think the applause given to him was the loudest.

His story is inspiring.

As soon as the ceremony was over, I was the first to hug him.

He has grown to mean so much to me…always quick with a greeting every time he sees me.

Now, don’t you dare start commenting with words such as, “You touched his life.”

That, in my opinion, isn’t quite true.

HE is the one who has touched MY life…changed it…with his gentleness…his thoughtfulness…his humbleness.

The average person can turn on the television or open a newspaper and read similar stories…students rising above their circumstances to do great things.

I used to be one of those people.

The stories were so remote.  They didn’t directly affect me.

And then I started working at my school.

And now I’m in the midst of these stories…watching them unfold before my very eyes.

Tears threatened to spill over as I returned to my classroom after the signing ceremony.

I am constantly reminded what an honor it is to do what I do every day.

Teaching is an AMAZING profession.

It’s not about getting a paycheck.

It’s not about having summers off and “supposedly” going home at 3.

For me, it’s not about what I do for my students.

It’s about what they do for ME.

I am different.

Because they are a part of my life.

I am different because I get to watch as young men like “T” become the first in their families to graduate.

It’s Official!

Today is National Signing Day.

If you’re not a sports person, you might not know that National Signing Day is the all-important milestone in a young athlete’s career.

It is the day he/she signs a Letter of Intent…the contract between the athlete and a college.

Important stuff.

We received Chicky’s paperwork in the mail a couple of days ago; however, NCAA rules state that an athlete cannot sign the letter until February 3rd.

We decided to wait until this afternoon because mornings are always rush-time for us.  Plus, I wanted to make sure we did things properly…camera at the ready, of course.

As we set the papers on the table, I felt emotional.  I simply could not believe that this moment was finally here…a culmination of the last 12 years of hard work and steely determination.  I wish I had kept track of the number of practices we’ve driven Chicky to…the number of games she’s played in, the miles we’ve put on our cars, and the number of weekends we woke up at the crack of dawn for.

Twelve years sounds like a long time, but it seems like it flew by.

All for this moment…

My sweet Chicky, pink fingernails and all, is now, officially, a Rollins Tar.

Chicky, if you happen to be reading Mama’s blog, here’s a special message to you:

Today is another big milestone for you.  I am incredibly proud of you.  I remember you in your pig tails, dribbling the ball around as only a six year old can.  You didn’t know what you were doing, but you were having fun.  Oh, how my heart swelled with pride when I watched you play in your first game.

And oh, the laughter that filled my lungs when I watched you get chased by a bumblebee while you took your turn playing goalie.  That goal was so big, and you were so small, and there you ran, trying to escape the bee not concerned one iota about what was going on in the game.

And you grew.

As you grew, you got better, and you gained confidence.

And my heart overflowed with joy as I watched you doing something you enjoyed so much.

Every season, you have gotten better and better.

Oh, how my eyes have filled with tears as I’ve watched you unknowingly inspire others through your triumphs over the challenges thrown in your path.

As important as soccer has been in helping you develop into a shining jewel, I pray that you take away one very important lesson.  Though you sign this Letter of Intent, this game of soccer is not what defines who you are.

Playing soccer is what you do.  It will allow you to get an solid education, give you an immediate circle of friends, and give you a niche to fit into at college.

However, being a child of God is who you are.  THIS is what defines you, on and off the field…wherever you go in life.

I know that YOU know this, because daily I observe you living your life in a way that honors Him.  May you always do so.

Of this, I am and will be most proud.

I love you more than you will ever know.


Mama ♥

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