Grads found fulfilling paths, planned or not

Day by Day
Grads found fulfilling paths, planned or not

By Liz Thompson

Jun 16, 2019
This Week News

Fifty years ago this month, I was one of nearly 400 high school seniors from Westerville (South) High School (in Ohio) who marched to “Pomp and Circumstance” to receive our graduation certificates.

Looking back, my main regret is I did not ask for help in my studies. Instead, I relied on my music ability to get me through life and onto my goal to become a music teacher.

That never happened. Best-laid plans and all that. But I know I’m not alone.

My classmates have tried to keep track of each others’ whereabouts over the years, yet we have lost track of about 60. As far as we know, 81 live in 29 other states, one lives in Newfoundland, one in France and two in Japan.

In 50 years, we know 49 classmates have died.

Dee (Weaston) Standish was a classmate of mine from kindergarten on. She now lives in Marietta. Her best-laid plans worked for her.

“My career turned out just the way I hoped it would,” she said. “I became a teacher, allowing me to work with children every day. I was in education until I retired.

“My advice to graduating seniors is to follow your passion, and it will help you find fulfillment in your chosen career.”

Barbara (Ralston) Thurber and her husband have lived in Austin, Texas, for 30 years.

“I would tell a graduating senior that life is going to give them many challenges,” Thurber said.

Her life has been interesting as a nurse.

“I served in the Air Force and have worked at many different places,” she said. “I have used my knowledge to take care of myself, my mother with cancer and my three daughters.”

Now her health prevents her from traveling to Ohio for our 50-year reunion.

Classmate Jim Garvie, now in Oklahoma, said his high school days were riddled with poor grades and anonymity as an introvert.

“No one gave me an outlook into what I could be or what I could do in the future,” Garvie said. “The moment I graduated and went to Bowling Green State University, it all changed. Loved college life, less structure and a reason to enjoy life.”

As his grades improved, he became involved in sports for the first time and began a major in physical education and teaching.

He found coaching and teaching health, science and driver’s education fun.

“I cannot believe I ended up in a career where I was paid to have fun,” Garvie said. “It’s the last thing I ever thought I would do in life.”

He knew there were students in high school who were like him at that age – unmotivated and with no clear future ahead.

“In classes, I developed a reward system where kids that behaved and did their work could earn extra credit and get the grades they wanted,” he said. “In football, I was able to get them involved as a team manager or actually on the teams, even if they were not athletically gifted.”

As a result of his teaching and coaching, he was hired by the Department of Defense to teach and coach on military bases in Japan, South Korea and Italy.

Many of my classmates are grandparents and have life experiences we never thought possible 50 years ago.

We sent a reunion survey to learn what people wanted to happen at the event.

Most wanted time to casually visit and reconnect, see memorabilia of our high school days and walk through the school building. They would love to see teachers and let them know the impact they had on their lives.

Music of the 1960s will play; name badges will halt the awkward moments because we have all changed in appearance. Laughter and maybe tears will happen along with memories.

Classmates from Massachusetts, Nevada, Kentucky, Wisconsin and all around Ohio will gather Aug. 3 to celebrate the 50-year mark in our lives. More than once, we will say, “Has it really been 50 years?”

We learned from our experiences and are wiser for them.

Take heed, graduates. Time passes quickly.

Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.