One by one the graduates passed by before me to receive their diplomas. I was sitting near the front of the Wharton Center auditorium as I watched the graduation ceremony of the Charlotte High School class of 2013.
As I watched the graduates joyfully receive their diplomas, my mind went back to June 14, 1973. I was wearing a dark blue gown with my cap. The 1973 graduating class of Highland Park High School was sitting in the front of Ford Auditorium in Detroit. Proud family, and friends packed the auditorium as we walked across the stage and received our diplomas. With the receiving of our diplomas a chapter of our lives was over, and we would be starting a new chapter in our lives. Like my classmates, I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I was excited to have this one chapter of my life finished.
My Mom kept a record of the events of graduation week. I imagine she did this; so I wouldn’t forget what was happening throughout the week. The week would be filled with memories, as well as excitement as I looked forward to my future. There would be goodbyes said, and many a person would drift away from my life, never to be seen again.
One of my special memories of graduation week was the Honor Society dinner. This dinner was held the evening before our graduation. Mr. Spencer was our sponsor, and he arranged for us to have our final goodbyes at Sinbad’s, which was a nice restaurant off of the Detroit River. I didn’t know it, but it would be the last time I would ever see Mr. Spencer. He would leave for South Korea for the new school year. He planned to teach there, but he died of cancer at a very young age. I never thanked him for all that he did for me as my counselor, as well as our Honor Society sponsor. His advice influenced my life even unto this day. Recently, I wrote a tribute to him (http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/07/20/franklin-spencer-iii-a-man-who-greatly-influenced-my-life/)
The day of graduation was filled with preparation as my family made sure that they would have photos of me. I was glad that my only living grandparent from Pennsylvania could be with us. Grandma Solomon would die in three years; so I treasured the time with her.
Our graduation ceremony was not memorable. The speeches have been forgotten, but I do remember the noise and shouting that resounded in the auditorium for some of us who received our diplomas. When they called my name, I heard a faint clapping and cheer from my family. The ceremony seemed lengthy, but when it ended, I knew that my life would never be the same.
I had invested thirteen years of my life in my schooling and now, it was all over. I would never see any of my classmates again. My teachers would become a distant memory. I would never step foot again in the halls of Highland Park High School.
When I look back upon my high school years, I do have some regrets. I did keep pretty much to myself. I was quite defensive, and I had a certain lack of contentment. I had a spiritual void during those years as well, but I didn’t know where to find the answer. In the next chapter of my life, I would find the answer to this spiritual void in the person of Jesus Christ.
However, there were many positives of my high school years. I did enjoy the friendships that I made in the Honor Society, as well as the tennis team. Being President of the Honor Society gave me some very important lessons in leadership which have helped me even today. I also learned that the most effective leaders were those who go beyond what is expected of them. The night after graduation, Mrs. Banton, my Latin teacher, invited a few of us to her house for dinner. She prepared a delicious meal for us. Talk about going the extra mile. I still need to take her example to heart even today.
Forty years ago, I finished the Highland Park High School chapter of my life, but the effect of my high school years are still real in my life today. When I left Ford Auditorium that night, the adventure of my life was only beginning. When I read “Cry, the Beloved Country” in tenth grade English, I never would have thought that I would live eight years in South Africa. I never would have imagined that I would live four years in the land of the great Portuguese explorers that we studied in history class.
When I look back upon my years at Highland Park High School, there were difficult times and good times. However, I realize that God had a great purpose for my life in having me attend HPHS. My life today still is a product of those years in high school. I thank God for each teacher that I had in school, as well as for every friend that I had during those formative years in my life.
P.S. Here is a link to an article written about Mrs. Banton. This is by another one of her students. https://growingupinhighlandpark.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/262/