I remember when the worst sickness I could get from a girl was cooties, when a late assignment did not come with a punishment, and my life was carefree and effortless. I remember when my biggest enemy was my brother, and everything was a competition. But what I remember the most is wanting to grow up, to grow up and make decisions for myself and be in full control. It turned out that did not work for me.
I lied. I failed. I cheated. I stained not only my reputation as a student, but more importantly my honor. I broke the rules at a high school that strives to build a community based on respect, honesty, and courage. I did not like a group of students telling me what to do. I did not like serving a three-day in school suspension and five detentions, and I did not care about graduating from the Character Mentorship Program. My school’s honor code meant nothing more to me than a receipt from the local grocery store.
Arriving at The Haverford School, I did not know that students looked out and cared about other students. I did not regret the decision I made; I regretted agreeing to follow through with my punishment. I had a meeting with the Character Mentorship chairman and its faculty advisers who explained that the program “gives upperclassmen the opportunity to help their peers make better decisions and follow through with the values or our school: respect, honesty and courage.” With resentment, I quickly completed the assigned, reflective activities and thought I was done with it.
During the next year I fought against the school, buried my feelings, and just got by. But at the same time, I started to think about who I was and who I wanted to be. My grades dropped and anxiety and anger took control. The year away from the program gave me time to think about the man I wanted to become. Gradually I realized I wanted to be like the men who had tried to help me face what I had done and more beyond it. From my graduation of the program, to my application, to my election as chairman, I grew to cherish my community. In order to understand the importance of community, I had to break the rules, become an outcast, and add more than I took away.
Character Mentorship Program, worked differently for me than it did for others, but it worked. Becoming chairman of the CMP taught me over and over again the importance of being there for others and creating a space where students can talk freely. So much so that I created another program, the Community Awareness Program, that facilitates honest student-to-student dialogue about keeping a safe and encouraging environment involving the whole school.
Passion is contagious. The upperclassmen I hated as a freshman became role models who helped shape me into the man I am today. Their actions guided me into the right directions, taught me right from wrong, honor from dishonor, respect from disrespect, and most importantly how to be a man for others.