Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday part 2: Tennessee magic

English teacher Patrick Clements was granted a sabbatical leave in the Spring of 2005 for a self-designed project: a four month solo bicycle trip across America, following historical trails Americans used over the last four centuries to head to new homes and to new dreams. His goal was twofold: To follow the paths of these earlier Americans, and also to meet and talk with "modern folks along the way, inquiring always about their 'Dream of America.'"  

"As a teacher of literature, especially English 11 (American Literature) and Literature of Travel and Adventure," Clements explained, "as a proponent of the value of primary experience as a critical part of all our learning, and as a member of the community who wants to live the same values we profess, I [sought] to combine scholarship, personal challenge, experiential learning, and a little practice in courage and humility."

From Jellico in Northeast Tennessee, at the intersection of the Kentucky/Tennessee border and I-75, there is no southwest route toward Nashville, now my focus. I headed south down long valleys, climbing and plunging interior ridges as forks of creeks split, then headed west over larger ridges to the next river. The loveliest valley of the trip was an hour in running the length of Elk Valley, in Campbell County, a modest valley with good bottom land, steep and well forested ridges, and New Canaan Baptist Church at its western, coved end. I stopped there to repair a slow leak, one I had tried to fix the day before.

That first time, back on Pine Mountain in Kentucky, I had pulled into a church parking lot, eaten a snack, and dried out in the warm sun. Then, as I was stripping out the front tire's tube, a handsome woman in a shiny new car pulled into the lot, circled round, and then asked if I was ok or if needed help. I told her that I was fine, just taking a break, enjoying the lovely stream by the church, and fixing a leaky tire. She smiled, then reached into the backseat, grabbed a trio of bananas and handed them to me. "I just came from the store. You might like these," she said. "There's a nice Bible college up the hill where my husband studies, with waterfalls and lovely grounds. Feel free to walk around," she said, and drove off. My concentration broken, I bungled the tire repair, missing the cause of the slow leak.

This time, though, here in Fox Valley, I'd take my time and find whatever tiny sliver was slowing me down. Sitting a second time in a church parking lot, I examined my tire carefully, found the tiny wire that was the culprit, and put things right.

As I was putting the tire back on, two men emerged from behind the church, carrying Styrofoam food containers, looking like character actors. One man was burly, bearded and dressed in worn overalls. The other was thin and weathered, his belt winding around his waist with plenty left over, his flannel shirt buttoned up at the neck and both wrists. They walked to me, said hello, and offered me lunch, "You probably work up a good appetite on that thing. The chili's mighty spicy, so y'all be careful," said the formal thin man. This was my introduction to Maynard Crabtree, Deacon of the church.

I later joined him and a growing group of folks in the hall behind the church, where they were selling lunches and used clothes and bric-a-brac, raising money to finish the roof on the hall. After scoring some powerful peanut butter candy, I sat on a floral couch for sale and listened to Maynard, a woman with a guitar who earlier had been helping sort a clothes rack, and a beautiful young man with a terrific voice, flowing hair, and a brand new mandolin. They all sat down near the used clothes, tuned their instruments, and began making music. On a sunny Saturday morning in Elk Valley Tennessee I listened to this threesome sing "Down by the Stream," "The Sweet By and By," and a couple other tunes. They tried to convince a series of visitors to become their fourth voice, but they sounded mighty fine to me. Maynard sang bass, an unwavering, trustworthy bottom to the songs. The young man's tenor was sweet and strong, just pure goodness at ten in the morning.

Listening to Appalachian gospel music arising from the rummage sale furniture of the New Canaan Baptist Church on a Saturday morning in Tennessee, I was full. This scene was so lovely and pure that I kept my camera buried in my bike bag.  I know that had I sought this scene, I could not have found it. 

I climbed out the cove end of the Elk Valley floating.I headed west towards Jamestown, Alvin York's hometown, the town in which John Clemens, trying to establish himself, lived with his family before starting over yet again in Hannibal, Missouri, where Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born soon after their arrival. Seems Mark Twain was conceived here in Jamestown.

The Mark Twain connection is played out just a bit in Jamestown. There's a small park with a well from which the Clemens family drew their water. The park is well tended by the local garden club, but the well was dry when I was there. I had heard of a Mark Twain Inn, but was told by a man back in Rugby that it had closed down years ago. After 70 miles and with the sun about to set, I was too tired to ride another 12 miles to the local state park, so I figured I'd stop in the police station and ask directions to the nearest motel. 

On my way, I wandered up to the Mark Twain Inn, across the street from the Fentress County Courthouse, a storefront now among county lawyers' offices, regretting the news I had heard earlier. A small handwritten note on the door read "Rooms Available," but it looked old and unreliable.But I pulled on the door, it opened, and I fell into a huge new treat. 

I found another note, "Office upstairs, Room 16." There is discovered Judy Ipock Blair, a 76 year old fifth generation Fentress County woman who ran this little hotel, a rooming house I guess, 

"Because I need something to do. You know, you just can't be idle. My daughter lives here in town, and my son-in-law is a lawyer, right downstairs, so I keep myself busy right here. New Jersey? Back in the war I dated a boy from New Jersey. There was a German P.O.W. camp here in Jamestown, and he was a guard there. Eddie Rantuccio, he was handsome, and such a good dancer. But that was long ago. Will this room be ok?" 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bowling with Buddies

The following entry comes to us from Jim Truslow, director of External Programs. Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Over the weekend, Peddie School and Hightstown High School teamed up for the inaugural "Best Buddies" event for our new joint chapter.  Our chapter is the brainchild of Tim Baxter '16, who has experienced Best Buddies from the family side — Tim's brother takes advantage of the friendships Best Buddies' violunteers provide back in New Hampshire.  Not only did our group have its first Best Buddies event, it was also our first event with students from Hightstown High — under the direction of longtime HHS faculty member Kathy Hart — and we hope it is the first of many.  All the kids, volunteers and buddies, had a great time with smiles all around.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Throwback Thursday part 1: Crossing the gap

English teacher Patrick Clements was granted a sabbatical leave in the Spring of 2005 for a self-designed project: a four month solo bicycle trip across America, following historical trails Americans used over the last four centuries to head to new homes and to new dreams. His goal was twofold: To follow the paths of these earlier Americans, and also to meet and talk with "modern folks along the way, inquiring always about their 'Dream of America.'"  

"As a teacher of literature, especially English 11 (American Literature) and Literature of Travel and Adventure," Clements explained, "as a proponent of the value of primary experience as a critical part of all our learning, and as a member of the community who wants to live the same values we profess, I [sought] to combine scholarship, personal challenge, experiential learning, and a little practice in courage and humility."

Following is an excerpt from the journal Clements kept during the course of his journey. Read more journal entries here.

 Thursday April 14 , Day 16 
Cumberland Gap TN -> Middlesboro KY (15 mi / 800 total)

Today turned out to be an extraordinary day, ridiculously full of happy and unexpected turns, all improbable because it began so lousy.

I pulled myself from a warm and dry cocoon into the wet chill of 40 degrees on the mountaintop campsite, stowed a soaked tent, put on soggy shoes, and began the day to cross the Cumberland Gap. After a chilling downhill to the highway, and then a busting climb out of the fog into the sun of a warming mountain day, I headed vaguely toward the tunnel. However, I veered back down and into the village of Cumberland Gap to dry out, find a place to do laundry, and see if there was some way to pedal over the gap and avoid the tunnel. And I was hungry.

In Sue Webb's Country Kitchen I found more than what I sought. I had a long talk about the region, town, and hopes with Joe Webb (long time resident of Cumberland Gap) and waitresses Patsy Johnson (originally from Kentucky) and Lorraine Nieto (14 years here since California). They filled orders, wrote up tickets, and talked with everyone on the run while I sat at the counter resuming the conversations when they returned. Fearful of a growing police state ("Did you know that right here in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, the police can run roadblocks and searches, for no reason? Six dollar an hour police troopers with no insurance and guns. I've been all over the world in the service, and there's less freedom here sometimes."), they nonetheless love their land and their freedoms. They want less stupid interference. They want jobs that include health insurance. They hope gas prices come down. They wish, or rather Joe wishes, that the state hadn't ruined the local fishing by adding Rockfish to the reservoir. "Rockfish, they're terrible fish, schooling and eating all the good fish you fish for in the first place. Rockfish. Argh. They're terrorist fish." Lorraine disagreed on loss of freedom: "We have more freedom here than anywhere. I love America, but everyone needs to get along."

A half hour later, while I was outside on a bench warming in the sun like some cycling reptile, Patsy ran out to find me and say that "We all thought you could use the laundry in the back of the building, since you're still here. You'll save seventy-five cents too." She led me to the back steps that led to apartments upstairs, opened the washroom, offered up a Styrofoam cup full of Tide, and apologized that she didn't have didn't have any softener to share.

Warm, fed, clean, and gratified by unexpected kindness, I headed up to the trailhead where hikers can take the Wilderness Trail over the mountain. There I met Park Ranger Scott Teodorski. I told him my story of my trip and its focus on traveling the roads that people took to new lives in America, and asked if I could cross over the Gap. He said I could, but not with the bike. I was crushed. However, after talking a bit longer, he offered to drive my bike over to the Kentucky side, provided I hike myself over alone. "I see that crossing the Gap is important to you. Will this help you do what you want? If that's ok, I'll hold your bike for you at the Visitor Center on the other side, which you might enjoy with its interpretive center, and a collection of maps that might be helpful." Twice of a morning, people are inventing ways to be helpful.

The climb over the Gap snuck up on me emotionally. The trail begins with good NPS details: footprints and hoof prints embedded in the walkway at the entrance, signage with images of pioneers with wagons, babies, and that faithful hound. Not one easily taken by data, I was stunned by the note that between 1775 and 1810, between 200 and 300,000 pioneers passed over this Gap into Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, a staggering number. This was a just a wide footpath, gentle here, much steeper just ahead, streams popping out of the rocks on my right every fifty feet, each crossing the trail and then falling into the valley on my left. For a mile and a half I wound upward, leaning into my steps, startled at the rising grade. How to do this with everything I owned, unsure of what lay ahead? And a quarter of a million people, in a small, new country!

The last few hundred yards must have been rough for the draft animals, for the pitch rose quickly in the last two twists up to the saddle of the gap, but I grew excited as the breeze changed its sound as I neared the top. I then stepped up into the gap and into the sharp wind from the west and looked across a new valley to distance equal ridges, and I stopped to rest. The air was sharp, the wind steady, and I felt like I'd accomplished something, climbing to and through this narrow pass, just as had hundreds of thousands heading off to homes and lives unknown. Feeling rather Frederick Jackson Turner-ish and seeing the continent unfold before me, I then had a second, equally powerful reaction: fine, fine, fine, big deal, but move on, boy, you've got a long ways yet to go. You think you’ve accomplished something. You have: You have arrived at the beginning. Shut up. And so I headed down into the wilderness of Kain-Tuck.

An hour after I began to hike down, I met Ranger Scott down at the Visitor Center. After checking out books, maps, and a film on Daniel Boone, I headed to Middlesboro. There my good fortune continued. Midway down the Gap on the Kentucky side I had met an afternoon walker headed up, Rob Arch, who directed me to the only wireless spot in town he was sure of, the offices of World Wide Gap, the local telecomm provider. I pedaled to their offices, walked in, met owner Larry Grandey and his son, was warmly greeted, and immediately provided a room to work in, wireless internet access for my Pocket PC, a killer laptop too in case I needed more juice, and an invitation to stay as long as I needed. A reporter from the Middlesboro Daily News, Natasha Douglas, showed up to write about my story. People were pausing in their work, doing everything imaginable, effortlessly, to make me feel welcome, comfortable, and provided for.
On my way to a cheap hotel, I stopped for a while and watched little kids playing T-ball in bright shirts and matching ball caps, just to top off my tank with a little more goodness in America.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Season interrupted

Lauren '17 enjoyed life at Peddie right from day one, but she was most excited for spring lacrosse season. Then life threw her a curve ball, and she ended the year with an even deeper appreciation for what it means to be part of a team.

The summer before my freshman year I was beyond excited for all of the new experiences and opportunities that would await me at Peddie. Fall term was amazing, meeting new people, getting to know all the girls in the dorm, Blair Day and the tangible energy and pride on campus, and spending time with all my friends and getting adjusted to life on campus was a blast. I knew I was making memories that would last forever. By winter term, campus was comfortable and I knew I had found the place where I belonged. I got closer and closer to the people around me and we all made it through the seemingly unending winter months with flying colors. However, I was beyond ecstatic for spring term, because the approach of March could only mean one thing-lacrosse season.

I spent those dreary winter months after school in the athletic center, working out with some friends who would also be alongside me on the field come March. We would shoot around with each other, play wall ball, and train - none of us could wait for the spring to roll around. When it finally did, I was a little nervous for how it would be playing for new coaches and what it would be like getting to know new girls both on and off the field. Preseason came around the second week of March and, even though it certainly didn’t feel like spring break, I was doing the thing I loved the most and was able to get to know all the other girls on the team. I was a little nervous since I had never played with girls so much older than I was and with so much more experience and skill, and I wasn’t sure how easily all the freshman would fit in. I had absolutely no reason to worry though. We all had a fantastic time and I’ll never forget what it was like to be part of a team that had so much fun together. During that one week, and then later throughout the season, I bonded with girls and made memories that I will keep forever. Once school started back up after spring break, I was so ready to start the season, having lacrosse be a major portion of my daily life for the next three months. A week or so into March, however, everything changed.

In the middle of March I fell in practice and ended up fracturing my ankle. Out of all the things I knew I was ready for, all of the conditioning practices and lost games, passes dropped and shots missed, this was one blow I did not see coming. The next few weeks would have been unbearable if not for the support from my friends, teammates, and coaches. I felt like my season had been ripped right out of my hands, but I wasn’t ready to give it up that easily. Every day after class, while my team headed out to the field, I would stay inside, doing my rehab exercises and working out in other ways to try to stay in shape and get ready for when I could get back out onto the field. I was there on the sidelines at the end of every practice and for every game, cheering on my team just like I knew they were rooting for me. By the end of the season I had a stack of little notes from them all, brimming with encouraging words and well wishes. 

Six weeks later, I was back out on the field with them, wearing that Peddie uniform with pride! My spring term at Peddie I learned a lot more than lessons taught in a classroom. I learned what it meant to be a part of a team, how to overcome obstacles that life throws in your path, and just how important hard work and dedication are. Ala Viva!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chapel Talk: Create your own map...and call your parents

Pat Dennis '98 returned to Peddie last week as one of thirty-five founding members of the Peddie Leadership Council (PLC). The group met on campus for the first time to engage more deeply with the community and  to begin their mission of serving as ambassadors for the school. During his visit to campus, Dennis took time to share some "advice to his 14 year old self" with students in this Chapel talk.

Twenty years ago, I entered those Chapel doors for the first time. I was a gawky fourteen year old arriving to Peddie from the small city of Toledo, Ohio. I was certain my acceptance letter to Peddie was the mistake of Mr. Quinn, the charismatic figure who headed the admissions office at the time. I’m not sure what happened, but I never got the chance to thank him for NOT reviewing my application too closely…

I had two big goals that day. First, I promised myself I would not cry, no matter how much I already missed my family. Second, I vowed that I would not get run over in the pool by my much larger upperclassmen teammates. Needless to say, I failed miserably at both.

I’ve gained a few pounds since then — and more than a few gray hairs. I’ve experienced highs – and lows – some of which I couldn’t have imagined when I was younger. I’ve gotten married to an amazing woman, become a proud father, found fulfillment in my career, and unexpectedly lost my Peddie roommate and best friend to heart disease. And at the ripe old age of 35, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about life.

Let me be honest about something up front. I certainly didn’t learn the most important lessons about life from a chapel speaker. In fact, twenty years ago, in this very chapel, I probably listened to a speech just like this, given by some 35-year-old alum, and forgot absolutely everything I heard.

That’s why my biggest piece of advice today is not to take any piece of advice too seriously. You will learn about what matters most to you in life, as I did, through trial and error. You will accumulate wisdom not by following instructions, but by making mistakes. You will grow, ultimately, by stumbling into, and rising out of, what our President calls “teachable moments.” Ignore everyone who tries to peddle you a map about how to live your life. You’ve got to create your own map, and the only way to do this is to stray off the main road for a bit and explore the terrain around you.
Still, do I ever fantasize about going back in time and giving a few tips to my 14-year-old self? Are there any things I wish I’d done differently? Are there times when I think to myself, “If only I’d been a bit less of a bonehead that one time…”? Of course. And when you’re my age, you’ll have these thoughts, too. I’m very happy with where my life’s journey has taken me so far, but had I known some of what I know now, the ride might have been a bit smoother. So, here are a few things I wish I knew when I was your fourteen.

#1 You only get to go to Peddie once – take a depth breath and enjoy it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled across the United States and around the world. I’ve walked through Turkish mosques in Istanbul and Buddhist monasteries in Myanmar, explored remote beaches in Europe, and seen African wildlife up close. I’ve made a pretty good dent in my bucket list.

But none of these experiences can hold a candle to my time at Peddie. Nothing has ever given me the kind of butterflies I felt in my stomach, walking through those doors twenty years ago. And as I stand here, reflecting on the extraordinary years I spent on this campus, those butterflies are back.  

Some of the moments that left the deepest impression took place in this very chapel. I’ll never forget my roommate Nick delivering a surprising chapel talk during his junior year describing our friendship and how much I helped him get through his early struggles at Peddie. Or the time retired 4-star general and Secretary of State Colin Powell engaged in a candid conversation with the student body discussing the challenges facing OUR generation. And I definitely will never forget former teacher Bill Hill belting out Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” to conclude his chapel talk on the power of music in his life. And these are just a very small sampling of the indelible “Peddie moments” I experienced while I was here.

The Oxford social scientist Robin Dunbar famously declared that the average person has the capacity to maintain a social network of about 150 people. He also found that a “rule of 3” applies to social networks. Your entire network could be divided by 3 to arrive at the 50 people you would call a close friend, again divided by about 3 to find the 15 friends you would turn to for sympathy, and again by 3 to find the 5 friends you would call your close support group. In the age of Facebook, Dunbar’s theory has come under fire. Yet, he continues to argue that, even if our social networks have grown much larger than 150 people, the core groups of 50, 15, and 5 remain fixed. The reason for this, he says, is because we need face-to-face time to build truly close friendships. Shared experiences — laughing, singing, dancing, and eating together — are what forge the most profound friendships.

And I can guarantee you this: the thing you will come to value most about Peddie are these moments of shared experiences with your classmates — and the unbreakable bonds that emerge from them. You are in the midst of some of the most formative years of your life, and I promise you that a good percentage of your core lifetime friendships — whether it be the 5, 15, or 50 — will be fellow Peddie alums.

Believe me, the real world is rarely as exhilarating and life-altering as an average day at Peddie. The competitions, collaborations, and conversations you’re having now will become some of your most powerful lifelong memories. I’m not saying every moment at Peddie is pure delight. There’s a lot of pressure on all of you to excel and move on to top colleges, and that can bring anxiety and stress. But try not to get so caught up in those pressures that you lose sight of the amazing experiences you’re having here.

In the words of the great philosopher Ferris Bueller,  “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't slow down and look around, you might miss it."

#2 College is a balance of planning and parties (and my advice would be to keep it in that order).

I mean it when I say that Peddie was one of the best experiences of my life. The bad news — especially for seniors — is that you can’t stay here forever. Although I think there are a few faculty members who have tested this statement.

The good news is that the next step in your life is perhaps even more exciting.

College is, frankly, amazing. You have four years of almost unlimited freedom to pursue knowledge, to meet amazing new people from all over the world, to engage in extracurriculars and internships that may lead to future career opportunities, to potentially travel abroad, to build friendships and romances that may last a lifetime.

College offers infinite choices — and this is precisely what can make it so overwhelming. Just like Peddie, there’s no possible way you’ll be able to take advantage of every opportunity that’s offered to you. But a little planning can go a long way. If I could go back in time, I’d have spent a little more time preparing for college — thinking about what my interests and goals in and out of the classroom might be — before my Freshman year.

To those of you who are seniors, it can be tempting to coast through this summer, and to enter college with a “blank slate.” But I’d encourage you to, at the very least, do some research on what programs and departments you’re excited by and think seriously about which kinds of classes you want to try out during your freshman year.

As I mentioned earlier, finding out what you’re truly passionate about may be more of a iterative process. However, making sure those iterations aren’t a waste of time does take some planning. As Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

#3 Resilience and defining your own success will be key

If you feel overwhelmed now, wait until you finish college. That’s where the real confusion can set in; the choices you’ll have to make are a lot bigger and more numerous than which classes to take or which extracurriculars to participate in.

Again, a little bit of advance planning can make a big — and usually positive — difference in your professional life. But one of the things you realize when you get older is that life throws you lots of curveballs. Everyone in this room will experience setbacks and even tragedies that are entirely out of our control. No amount of personal planning can fully prepare you for tough circumstances.

My wife and I graduated from college in 2002. In the wake of 9/11, the economic situation in this country was bleak. We both entered the job market with solid resum├ęs and academic qualifications, but the job market was contracting and neither of us got close to our dream jobs. And even though those early days were frustrating, we felt lucky to have the jobs we had. Our resilience paid off and gradually, both of us worked our ways into the stable and satisfying careers we enjoy today.

Whether you pursue a traditional career route or something more off the beaten track, resilience will be key.

One of my teammates and great friends from college went on to receive his joint graduate degree in business and education. Just like in college, he was top in his class at Stanford and could have taken his pick of any number of professional careers around the world.

But Chris took an unexpected path instead. He and classmate from Stanford had a vision of changing the educational landscape in Africa. They sought to address what they saw as the most critical factor in Africa’s future development – the shortage of accountable entrepreneurial leaders. You can probably imagine how challenging it was for Chris to start, from scratch, a prep school on another continent but Chris was determined to see his idea through and his resilience has paid off. The African Leadership Academy just welcomed its seventh incoming class.

Now I’m not saying everyone should move to South Africa to start a prep school, but I do want to encourage you define success for yourselves. Don’t let your teachers or employers, your peers or parents, define success for you. Emerson said it best: “insist on yourself.”

#4 Call your parents

In my mid-20s, I began setting aside time at the beginning of each year to make a list of what I hoped to accomplish that year. I wish I’d started making these lists earlier, because they've been an invaluable tool for self-reflection, to see how my priorities have shifted over time. When I started making these lists, the goals at the top all revolved around professional and financial success. Personal goals were lower on that list, and even lower were goals relating to my family. Today, it’s the opposite — my professional and personal goals have taken a back seat to family. To me, my family is everything.

As J.K. Simmons said during his Oscar award acceptance speech this past February, “Call your mom, call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t e-mail. Call them on the phone. Tell them you love them and are available for as long as they want to talk to you.”

Perhaps because I am newly minted father, this advice really hit home. So let me echo J.K. Simmons and encourage you to call your parents, guardians or whoever it is that has worked so hard so that you could have the chance to be here at Peddie. Let them know they’re appreciated. They will appreciate it.

I’ve said enough for today, but while I’m up here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a little plug to the newly formed Peddie Leadership Counsel.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the only one with gray hair in the Chapel here today. Thirty-five alumni, and parents of former and current students, have come back to campus to kick off the start of a working group we hope will become very important to Peddie’s future.

There is a significant amount of geographic and age diversity in our group — but there’s one thing we all have in common. We’re all passionate about Peddie and the opportunities it afforded us and our families. And we want to ensure those opportunities are afforded to future generations.

I’d like to encourage all of you, particularly those in the front row, to start thinking about your relationship with Peddie going forward. I promise you this. Whatever you end up giving back to Peddie — whether it’s your time, energy, or donations — the return on your investment will be tremendous. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that fourteen year olds will continue to walk through these Chapel doors with stomachs full of butterflies, for years, if not centuries, to come.

Now go do something great and then call your parents and tell them all about it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chapel Talk: One Falcon's story

Justin '15 is student body co-president and a multi-sport athlete. He shares here the story of his journey to Peddie.

Many people have asked me how is it that I found out about Peddie when I live in Georgia. Well, I'm going to tell you that story.

I’m not going to lie and say that growing up in Georgia was tough for me, because it wasn’t. It was simple. Get up, go to school, learn, and don’t do anything stupid. However, I will say that there were some key experiences that led to me coming here, and I can date them to as far back as when I was five years old.

I was mostly quiet as a kid. By the time I was born all my brothers and sister were old enough to be in college or enlisted in the U.S. Marine corps, so all my brothers and sisters labeled me an only child. I was no older than five when I got into my first fight - but it wasn’t by choice. I had been playing in my father’s garden minding my own business when the older kids from next door surrounded me and encouraged their little brother to fight me. I lost that fight, and as a result I stayed inside for a couple of days in order to avoid another confrontation.

This tendency to avoid conflict stayed with me up until middle school. All throughout sixth and seventh grade it was a struggle for me. Most of the kids in the school I had never seen before - there were a few whom I went to elementary school with, but for the most part I didn’t know many. Every morning I would come to school and see the same group of kids all getting on someone. It was expected in my school, that if you lived in Georgia you were good at getting on someone else for just about any reason you could come up with as long as it got everyone to laugh. I was not so good at this talent and for that I was targeted. Every day it was the same routine, and I found myself getting tired of the repetitiveness.

Seventh grade started and that was a big year for me, mainly because we could start to play school sports. I decided to sign up for football because that seemed to be the sport that got all the girls' attention. Unfortunately, just because I played football I still didn’t get their attention. After I signed up for football I soon realized I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mainly because when you’re a seventh grader in Georgia, who just started football, you’re probably 18 years behind everyone else. Now I know that make doesn’t make sense, but it’s Georgia, everyone is born at the age of five.

Seventh graders were considered lucky just to have made the team, but four individuals went above and beyond and not only made the team, but became part of the starting lineup. Darrel Patterson, Jaquez Durham, Adonis Thomas, and Michael Horton all were standout athletes who excelled in football. Two of them will be lucky enough to go on to division 1 football: Michael Horton as an offensive lineman for Auburn and Adonis Thomas as Linebacker for Alabama. Yea, I was playing with some big boys.

However, Jaquez was the one who had the greatest impact on me. One day after football practice I left early because I had to go somewhere, and Jaquez decided to leave with me. I expected him to start getting on me on our way back to the locker room, because out of everybody in the school, he was the one who got on me the most. But this time, he didn’t. Instead, he asked me why I let people talk about me without sticking up for myself. Then he told me about his mom and how she had just been locked up for shoplifting for him and his brother, and how he had to take care of his brother until his mom came home. I had no idea why he was telling me this, but every time I saw him from that day forward, there was no more getting on each other. Because of Jaquez I started to stand up for myself.

By eighth grade, I no longer had a problem with people getting on me. There was a good reason for that too. Whenever someone at our school had a problem with someone we use to settle it by going “fifteen.” Fifteen was basically a fifteen second fight between two people, and I never lost.

It wasn’t until the middle of my eighth grade year that I decided that a public school in Georgia was no longer where I wanted to be, so my mother and I decided to apply to boarding schools. I applied to a total of fourteen my eighth grade year, including Blair and Lawrenceville, and I didn’t get into any of them. I wasn’t hurt by the fact that I didn’t get in. I was hurt more by the fact that I was still going to be a part of the Georgia public school system - a system where kids don’t want to be the best they can be, or want to go to a college outside of Georgia.

It wasn’t until I spent my first year in high school that the decision for me to leave was solidified. I had seen enough and was ready to leave. This time, I applied to three schools and got into all three. I chose the one that I felt was the best fit for me, and I was correct. I’ve had a lot of strong influences that lead to my choosing to come to Peddie. There have been a lot of things that I wish I could have done differently in my life, but one decision I would have constantly made over and over again no matter what, would have been to choose the Peddie School of excellence because there is no place I’d rather be.

Ala Viva

Friday, March 20, 2015

Peddie in India 2015: Day 8

Today's post is brought to us by Amina '15, with photos courtesy of faculty member Cathy Watkins.

Today we had a relaxing outdoor adventure. We first took a nature hike through a village learning  about how they live and some of the crops they grow. 

We then had the choice of either going to see the water fall or staying at the campsite and swimming in a pool and playing volleyball. I choose to go see the waterfall and it was beautiful the best was getting to put my foot in the cold water after a hard walk up to the waterfall. 

After the waterfall we came back to the campsite and had a delicious cookout dinner. We then got to go back to the hotel and get some rest for the next eventful day.