Time has made some of the things in my past a little fuzzy, but there are other moments in my life that are as clear as a Windexed window. High School graduation day is a good example.
It was my first date with Jilda Phillips. She was a 10th grader then. She told me I looked good in my graduation gown. I’d never worn a dress before so it was a new experience for me. I appreciated her feedback. I remember the swishing sound the gown made as I walked down the aisle. The flat hat tilted to port and it made me wonder if my head was slanted to one side.
Mr. Gant was the principal at that time. He planted a lot of seeds with his wisdom. When he handed me my diploma, he looked me in the eyes and said in a low voice that only I could hear, “Make us proud, Ricky.”
Flipping the gold tassel from the right side of my face to the left was an iconic moment in my life. It felt as if I were stepping through a gateway into the future. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me, but getting on with my life was top priority. The experience was exhilarating.
My work at the Daily Mountain Eagle takes me to local high schools and I’ve had the opportunity to interview several seniors. The thing that strikes me is they all seem a little restless. I remember that feeling. Most of them enjoyed high school, but they are ready to turn the next page in their lives. I’m excited for them.
I don’t remember many opportunities for scholarships when I graduated. They were there I’m sure, but my grades probably put me on the bottom of the list for potential award offers.
Both Jilda and I attended college. Through the years, we’ve learned the value of an education. Back around 2006, we became active in the Dora High School Alumni Association. During our work there, we both decided it would be a good idea to fund a small scholarship each year for a senior that might otherwise be overlooked for an award. We started in 2008.
Awarding scholarships is our way of planting seeds. Some of them fall on fallow ground, but our hope is that a few of them take root and grow strong.
Our first recipient was William Justice. Will has done well. He not only graduated from Birmingham-Southern College, but he went on to earn a master’s degree. Since he graduated, he’s done well. We put a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt on each certificate we award these days. It says: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
We are both excited for the young folks making their transition from high school to the next phase of their lives.
The scholarship this year is going to a young woman who wants to go into forensics. Together Jilda and I will wish her well. Maybe when she becomes successful, she’ll come back to Dora High and plant some seeds of her own.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at email@example.com.