In life it’s often the seemingly insignificant moments that you are able to look back upon and recognize the importance. Everyday in our classrooms these moments occur between adults and students. Sometimes these moments change lives.
After Christmas dinner we were sitting around our dining room table when my dad told a story I had never heard before. I had known that my grandfather worked on the railroad as a locomotive engineer and I had known that my dad was the first member of his family to attend and graduate from college, but I had never really learned what made my dad choose to go to college. That decision to go to college led my dad to a career in federal law enforcement with the U.S. Secret Service. It led to us being able to afford to grow-up in Worthington, and it led to me going to college and eventually earning advanced degrees. That single decision changed my dad’s life, it changed my life, and likely it will change the trajectory of the lives of my children, their children, etc…It literally had exponential impact.
Here’s what I learned. Dad grew up in the Linden area of Columbus and attended Linden McKinley High School. In the spring of 1962, dad was signed up for the classes he would need to graduate from high school his senior year. The classes were all average courses that would fulfill his requirements for graduation but wouldn’t cause him too much stress. Dad was an average student who likely had above average intellect but was left by my grandparents to manage school himself and as such, he did just enough to get by and gave little thought towards the future. (He was a normal adolescent boy.)
That changed in the spring of 1962 when Linden McKinley guidance counselor, Evelyn Cummins, called dad down to her office to review his schedule. She promptly informed him that this schedule would not cut it if he was going to go to college and he should be planning to go to college. Without his consent, she changed his courses to a college prep load and insisted that he plan to attend Ohio State after graduation.
In 2016 it’s funny to think about, but Dad had never considered going to college. No one had really mentioned the idea and no one had ever pushed him in that direction. He didn’t have other plans and when Ms. Cummins expressed confidence in his abilities, he began to think about himself in those terms. That simple meeting changed everything.
Dad completed his senior year in the college prep track. He graduated from Linden McKinley in the spring of 1963 and enrolled at Ohio State University that fall. Tuition was around $175.00 per quarter in 1963 and he found the money to pay for school by enrolling in the Army ROTC.
Certainly there were other contributing factors but one could draw a line to say that Evelyn Cummins met with my dad on her own accord because she cared. She changed his senior year course schedule and with her insistence, he went on to college. Because he went to college, I went to college. Because I went to college, I met my wife, and likely our daughters will each go to college.
Thus, Evelyn Cummins, a lady I never met, changed my life and the life of my family forever. And, that’s what public educators do every day across this country.