"If you sat me down two or three years ago and told me I’d be getting my diploma, I’d have called you a liar,” Bryon said.
Students at Mount Prospect Academy can surprise you. Students at any school can surprise you, really. Whether it be through academic achievements, athletics, extracurriculars, or behaviors – working with young adults in a school setting can throw you curve balls that you never thought you’d see coming your way. The young men who come to Mount Prospect Academy, however, can really catch you off guard. They come from varied backgrounds, some with checkered pasts and upbringings that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Some of the students at Mount Prospect have every right to look at what the world has offered them and think, “What’s the point in trying to do well when society already thinks I’m only capable of the worst?” But most surprising of all, is the tenacity with which Mount Prospect Academy students can attempt to prove the outside world’s expectations wrong.
A student in my classroom (who, for the sake of this piece of writing, I’ll call “Byron”) entered the Mount Prospect school during the end of his junior year. Byron had a past that didn’t offer much to be proud of: catching charges for drug possession, regular suspensions from school, bouncing around from state to state, even running away from home. Finally, Byron landed with us, isolated in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, far from the city life he was used to. When I met Byron, I had only been working at Mount Prospect Academy for a week.
You could almost say that Byron and I became “freshmen” at Mount Prospect school at the same time. In the months that followed, I witnessed Byron’s induction to the culture of this place, and I saw his development as a person who was willing to learn from his past. I was privileged enough to watch Byron refuse to let his old mistakes hold him back. Byron worked hard, completing credit after credit toward his high school diploma, learning when to ask for help and when to fight through things on his own. He learned what worked best for him, and continued to apply those strategies without faltering. Then Byron got a job! Several jobs, in fact, proving himself to be an asset at each one, and moving on to the next better paying position with nothing but good references in his wake. Sure, there were bumps along the way, because some old habits die hard (or never die). But before we knew it, I was sitting in a classroom proofreading and editing the final essay that Byron needed to turn in to complete his high school diploma. When he had finished the final words, Byron turned to me and said, “I never thought this day would happen to me. If you sat me down two or three years ago and told me I’d be getting my diploma, I’d have called you a liar.” There may have been one or two expletives in there that I left out, but that was the gist of it.
Now, Byron has been rigorously applying to jobs in the community, and has been accepted as an employee of the US Postal Service. Byron has also been accepted to college, and he is planning on attending in the upcoming year. To say that I am incredibly proud of Byron would be a vast understatement. But more importantly, Byron should be proud of himself. He embodies everything that we hope for our students here at Mount Prospect Academy: responsibility, perseverance, pride, achievement, initiative and most importantly, courage. It takes courage to defy expectations; it takes courage to prove those who doubt you wrong; and it takes courage to surprise people. Sometimes, the best part about working with the students of Mount Prospect Academy is how much they can surprise you when they’re given the chance to succeed.