The One Teacher Who Cared Enough

Life is a series of random and unexpected occurrences. The plans that you have for your life don’t always turn out the way you plan them. When I was in high school, I assumed that I’d advance from one grade to the next, graduate, go to my first choice university, USC, get my degree and live my dream. That’s not what happened. During my sophomore year, my parents split. The middle class life I knew was over.  I was uprooted from my childhood home and bounced around not once but twice until we managed to settle in a neighborhood that was known for gang activity. Colors mattered. I was not used to this. I had to learn to adapt. I was attending a private school getting a college preparatory education. This was like putting a deer in a forest amidst wolves.

Near the end of my senior year, I learned that the issues between my parents would now affect me, severely. It began with a call to the office during my senior year to alert me that my tuition had not been paid. If it wasn’t paid before final exams, I wouldn’t be permitted to take them.  I had to apply to colleges and send transcripts. This would affect my grades. This would change everything. Each of my grades dropped one grade, except one, biology. Ms. Lee, my biology teacher, saw my attitude changing and decided to inquiry. I explained everything from the beginning. At the end of my tale, she explained that she didn’t know what she could do but told me not to worry.  No one else knew what was happening with me.  I told no one else.  It was so hard dealing with the events of my life.  I couldn’t apply to any colleges and I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation if I was allowed to graduate.

After many weeks, finals were happening, I went to class after class knowing I wouldn’t be able to take any of the exams.  I finally got to biology class sat at my desk and prepared to read a book while waiting for the class period to be over so I could leave.  Ms. Lee got the attention of the class and let them know she would be handing out the exam.  I pulled out my book and pretended to be engaged.  Ms. Lee stood in front of my row and began handing out exams and she placed one on my desk.  I quickly raised my hand to get her attention so I could let her know she had made a mistake.  She asked to see me in the hall.  Once in the hall, I explained to Ms. Lee that she had given me an exam by mistake since I wasn’t allowed to take the exam.  She looked at me, then smiled and told me that she was going to let me take the exam.  I was shocked and overwhelmed.  She told me that she made a decision soon after I had explained my situation to her.  She said she would simply substitute my lowest grade with my final exam grade.  In the middle of all this she said that she had gathered several college applications and that she would be assisting me in applying into those that still had open application dates.

At that moment, Ms. Lee was my hero.  I took that exam.  Even though, my grades dropped I would still graduate that is if my tuition was paid.  My tuition was paid a week before graduation.  My father didn’t understand, couldn’t understand why my report card showed such low grades and a low-grade point average according to his standards.  In his mind, this was all my fault.  I was to blame.  I would graduate.  I would walk the stage.  I would get my diploma.  I would leave my home town and everything I knew and go to New Orleans, LA to attend Xavier University.  I owe all these things to Ms. Lee.

Ms. Lee, you were the one teacher who reached out to me and I am forever grateful.  You let me know to never, ever give up even when things look bleak.  I have never been able to find Ms. Lee to thank her.

If you happen to know Ms. Lee, can you tell her that I appreciate everything she did for me?

Thank you for taking the time to read a small part of my life story.

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