Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No Excuses!

Flavio (name changed) was a senior on my caseload as a counselor.  He and I had a rocky start.  Behind in credits.  Not a particularly strong student.  Tough background.  Poor. 

I brought him in early in the year to talk about whether or not he wanted to graduate.  Actually, he ignored my call slips.  Not once, but twice.  So, I sent security to escort him to my office.  I ranted and raved.  He fussed and fumed.  But, he agreed . . . grudgingly . . . to come see me when he received one of my call slips.

To test that, I sent for him the very next day and as promised, he came.  He slouched down in the chair, stretched out his legs, folded his arms and scowled at me. 

I ignored it. 

Instead, I presented him with a program, a work program where not only he could earn credits, but also receive the training for a job.  That got his interest.  He actually sat up and stopped scowling.  Hmmm . . .

I met Jamal (name changed) when he was a skinny freshman.  He came to school to register, accompanied by his father and step-brother.  He liked writing.  Seemed curious, interested.  Quiet, but smiled shyly.

Two boys. Same school.  Different backgrounds.  Different, but similar.

I would check in with Flavio once a week or so to see how he was doing.  Eventually, I didn’t have to send for him.  He started to come to see me on his own, without a call slip and without the security escort.

He and I talked about other things besides school.  He was a borderline gang-banger.  He stole.  He got into fights because he was angry.  He ran with a ‘crew’ because he liked the thrill. 

I kept redirecting him back to “What’s your goal? What do you want in life- right now?  Next year?”

Flavio got himself jumped out of his ‘crew’.  Beaten up badly.  When I visited him, I barely recognized him.  Bruised, battered, swollen.  But . . . happy, relieved.

Jamal lived in a two-bedroom apartment with his dad and his dad’s wife, his step-brother and two step-sisters.  His biological mother was in jail for drug abuse.  Jamal slept on the floor.  No mattress.  Not even a couch.  Just a blanket to throw over him to keep him warm.

But he came to school every day.  Worked hard.  Determined.  Excelled in football, wrestling and track.  And of course, writing. 

He visited with me once or twice a week too. 

Found out that he was living with his grandmother because neither his mother nor his father wanted him.  Unfortunately, he came home from a pick-up basketball game and discovered his grandmother dead on the kitchen floor.  Heart attack.  At one point during his high school years, Jamal’s father also ended up in jail.  So did his step-brother.  He could have been swept up in a gang like many of his friends.  No, he stayed away.  Spent time in the two-bedroom apartment where he wasn’t particularly wanted.  Not really wanted at all.

Flavio and Jamal.  Two boys.  Tough backgrounds.  Tough, if not impossible, lives. 

Two boys in the same graduating class.  Yes, they graduated.

Flavio was the first male in four generations to graduate from high school.  He received his high school diploma, stepped off the stage, sought me out and he hugged me for what seemed an eternity.  He and I wept together.  Happy tears.  Tears of joy.  Loved that kid.

Jamal went through the same graduation.  Received his diploma, stepped off the stage and picked me up in a bear hug and spun me in a circle.  Happy.  Giddy.  Laughing.  Loved him too.

Two boys with impossible backgrounds.  Impossible lives.  Not much support.  Poor.  Impoverished.

Yet, neither boy made Excuses.  No Excuses.  They worked hard.  They gutted it out.  Both determined to make something of himself . . . themselves.  No Excuses.  Not poverty.  Not a lot of family support.


Flavio went to a tech school for drafting.  Jamal went to college on a football scholarship, became a counselor and is now an administrator.  Make no mistake- it wasn’t me!  The only thing I did was open a door.  I lent a hand.  I guided.  That’s it.  That’s all.  They did the work.  They made the decision to change, to do better.  They decided to go through the door held open to them.  Those two young men were the ones who succeeded. Only those two young men deserve the credit- no one else!

Both young men could have hidden themselves under the cloak of “Ain’t it awful”.  Both young men could have thrown in the towel.  But instead, there were No Excuses made by either of them.  They made tough choices.  They worked hard.  They didn’t let life and it pitfalls do them in.  Instead, they rose above their given lot in life.  Instead, they seized opportunities given to them.  No Excuses.  If those two young men could, anyone can.  We can.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!


  1. Sometimes it seems the people you would expect to have excuses don't and the people that should have no excuses are the ones that have a list of excuses as long as your arm.

  2. You're absolutely right, Julie. Interesting, isn't it? Thanks for reading it and thanks for the comment. I appreciate it.

  3. Another inspiring story. Joan

  4. Your blog posts are amazing,well written. Carry on :) Dennis

  5. Thank you Joan and Dennis. I really appreciate it and I thank you for reading it. Joe

  6. Making lemonade out of Lemon. I love this, so. inspiring.

    More ink to your pen.

    1. Thank you, Muhammad. Thank you for following this. Joe


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe