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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The "Proud Mentor And Proud Graduate" Story

It was a ordinary day.  Checking out some of the stories in the newspaper about recent high school graduations.  Turned the page and found a half-page story about four high school graduates who were facing serious challenges in their lives, but still managed to succeed and graduate.  One young boy who had medical problems and had brain surgery performed on him.  He eventually made it through school and graduated.  He plans to enter the military in the near future.  Another young girl who lost both parents while living in Zimbabwe and came with her twin brother to the U.S. to live with relatives.  She struggled with depression and anxiety and almost dropped out of school, but she credits her teacher Daniel Mahlandt for helping her pave the way to Messiah College.  A third student also lost both parents, her mother in elementary school and her father in her junior year of high school.  Her stepmother has given her support as well as being motivated by the mantra her father shared with her: "Live for two."  She will enter Penn State soon to study electrical engineering.  
Graduate Isaiah Gilliespie 
But, it was the fourth story that drew my interest the most.  Story about a young man by the name of Isaiah Gilliespie who lived with his mother.  She became ill and unable to work when he was in seventh grade.  Isaiah struggle and was held back in school.  He was angry with the world and found it hard to be motivated.  He joined the track team as a freshman, knowing he had to keep his grades up to succeed.  It was at this time that he met assistant track coach and high school graphic arts teacher, Jim Ertzgard.  
Teacher, coach and friend Jim Ertzgard.
Wow ... as soon as I saw that name I knew the story was going to have a happy ending.  I'm also a big fan of Jim since meeting him years ago.  He is one of the most caring individuals I have ever known.  He took over my classroom from me when I retired from teaching.  I often would visit Jim at school, inquiring when would be a good time to come to visit and use the press in his room to print something that the school district needed.  Jim never considered my visits as a distraction to his classes.  Always welcoming me as long as he wasn't lecturing.  
Proud Army graduate Isaiah.
I could see how much the students enjoyed his class and interacted with him.  He is a top-notch teacher as well as a caring individual.  I still remember the visits he made to my home, after recent surgeries, to check on me to see how I was doing.  Well, I knew as soon as I saw his name that the outcome of the story was going to be a positive one.  
Isaiah Gilliespie preparing to receive
his High School diploma.
Seems that Isaiah turned out to be a motivator on the track team as well as in life.  He got two jobs to support himself and his mother, did well in his classes, one of which was Mr. Ertzgard's class, and managed to excel on the track team.  Last summer he completed basic training for the U.S. Army.  After graduation he plans to either enter the Marine Corps or attend Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology where he has been accepted.  To go with the newspaper story was a video which offered an interview with Isaiah as well as Jim.  Jim was asked what he thought about Isaiah graduating.  He said, rather teary-eyed, that it will be a proud moment to see him graduate.  He said he was also very proud to have been a part of Isaiah's life and to have Isaiah be a part of his life.  The story ended with Isaiah saying that he just wanted to be able to provide for himself as well as his mom.  Some stories really do have happy endings!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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