Thurgood Marshall said, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us …”
During the month of May, I attended numerous graduations or parties of my great- nieces and friends. I was happy to be present at each event. In spite of the negative connotations that have plagued so many of our young people, I witnessed hundreds receiving their diplomas. I didn’t know the majority of them, but I was just as proud. They were not a part of the statistics of being a dropout! These young people passed not only their high school courses, but the rigorous state tests requirements.
At Oxford High School, Karli Gaillard’s mother, Kelli, a single parent, praised God for her daughter’s success. The salutatorian’s speech mentioned how all the students were different; yet each one found their niche. The salutatorian said, “…Karli had the highest average in Chinese…” What an outstanding accomplishment!
At Mooreville High School, I was so proud to see Channing Mitchell, a young black man, walk down that aisle with honor cords brightly shining. He made all A’s the majority of the time in school. His mother, Wanda, a single parent, was ecstatic. Then Josh Johnson, one of the most mannerable young men that I know, led the Invocation. His parents, John and Ruby, were so pleased that their ninth child had graduated.
At Saltillo High School, Layken Mathis’ mother, Nicole, a single parent, cried and rejoiced to see her oldest child graduate. Alaric J. Hunt’s mother, Pam, a single parent, and his grandparents were so proud to see him receive his diploma.
At Tupelo High School, Zierra Long’s parents, JB and Zell, were so excited to know that their eighth child graduated with distinction. Zierra is blessed with so many talents. She can sing, write poetry and draw, to name a few. Breanna Ratliff’s mother, Shirley, a single parent, also praised God for blessing her daughter to graduate with distinction.
At North Pontotoc High School, Ashley Gambrel’s parents, Gerald and Coretta, were so proud to see their daughter inducted in the Hall of Fame. At Ashley’s party, her mother tearfully said, “We pushed you to excel. You honored us by accomplishing so much doing your high school years. Now you have the opportunity to go to college and acquire as much education as you desire…”
I must mention two other young people who graduated as well and impacted my life over several years. Tyler Willis, a young man, whom I met through his mother, Kim, during a football booster club meeting; and, Alexandria Presley, a beautiful young lady, whom I met through her parents, Don and Nancy, at a random book signing. I find these students to be two of the most loving and genuine young people that I have had the pleasure of meeting. It doesn’t matter if they see me in the grocery store, Walmart, football games or high school – they always greet me with a hug and with respect and dignity. What is so beautiful – my color doesn’t matter to them.
What do all of these parents have in common? Regardless of their status as a two parent or a single parent household – they all wanted their children to graduate. These parents know the importance of acquiring an education and all of them pushed their children to succeed. Malcolm X said, “Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world.” I dedicate this column to these parents and all other parents of 2013 graduates who deserve praise for a job well done.
Is education important? Should parents push their children to excel? You be the judge.
JUANITA GAMBRELL FLOYD is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at juanita@create foundation.com.