I’m not sure how many times I have been told this in my lifetime. For some reason it has not sunk in. I am always convinced that I can save everyone. If you have read, “Catcher in the Rye,” and know its meaning, you will know how I feel. I can fail at all else, but saving somebody is the only failure that really hurts me. I can usually see it happening. It’s at that point that I try all the harder. I never learn.

Mark is a strapping 19 year old senior at a local rural high school. He is shy, articulate, and smart and his smile can fill up a room. His involvement with the group that I call the Jasper Gentlemen, gave me a chance to know him. He desperately wanted to go to college. Like all of the other young men in the group, he tried to accomplish the steps with no help from his family. None of his family had been to college. I am not even sure that they graduated from high school.

Mark lives with his aunt. His mom and dad are divorced and his dad has custody of Mark. In speaking with his dad, I am not sure that he is anxious to have Mark go to college. His actions or lack of actions tells me a great deal about his feelings for his son.

Mark works exceptionally long hours and a local Wendy’s. Yesterday he worked two shifts (16 hours). He does not intend to continue working there for minimum wage. Although he has been working there for a year, there are no advancements. He will resign in a few weeks to join a landscaping company and make much more money (he says). I asked if he was prepared for the heavy work ahead. He answered by smiling and kind of looked at me with a “are you kidding” expression.

He was accepted at a historically black college an hour and one half from his home. I have been in contact with the school to see what else he needs to do with his FAFSA form (federal application for a Pell grant). I was told that I did not have authority to be given that info and that a FERPA form would be sent to me for Mark to sign. That’s a consent form for me to have access to information. Essentially, his dad needs to put some figures on from his income tax form. Unfortunately, the dad has not filed yet. I called a friend of mine, who is an accountant and will do the filing and filling out for nothing. I have a feeling that is not going to happen.

Intellectually, I know that this is a dead end situation. Emotionally, I can hardly stand and watch a perfectly good human being, with ability to go to college, being thrown away. I am not sure how we let these things happen. When you look at South Carolina statistics, you get the feeling that there are lots of Marks out there.

It is a moments like these that I wish that I was much younger.




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