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