Have you ever taken the time to imagine how different your life would be today were it not for the College Road you travelled?
Granted, there are good and bad experiences on every College journey (and some of us may have more of one than the other) but surely both of these contributed, in equal measure, to developing the unique individuals we are on our way to becoming?
Over the past few days I have been reflecting on my time at College – the good and bad – and remembering some of the boys I knew who left College quietly and without most of us even knowing the circumstances that surrounded their departure. I sit wondering where they are now, how different their lives are and where my road might have lead me had I been in their shoes…
Until recently I had never really dwelled much on the reality that there are boys whose College journeys come to an end for a variety of reasons and that their lives invariably change as a result thereof.
Regular internal email updates appear in my inbox with the subject header: “Pupil Movement Memo” and are summaries of journeys ending and journeys beginning. Updates on boys leaving College, arriving at College, dayboy’s becoming boarders and boarders now joining the ranks of the dayboy’s – the latter remains completely perplexing and, in itself, the source of many more sleepless nights!
To be honest – I used to briefly skim through these lists without paying them too much attention. Until now.
What prompted this reflection was a recent interaction with a College boy whose College journey was ending – before it even started.
It began with a letter, then a personal visit (albeit unannounced) and a plea for assistance.
Michael* is in the middle of a protracted domestic dispute between his mother and father. They are separated and mom is now left to look after Michael and his younger brother, without any financial support at all. She has been a stay-at-home mom for the last 14 years – a decision she and her husband took when Michael was born. She is now unemployed, without a regular income, at the age of 40-something has had to move back in with her parents who live outside of the province and has now just had her car repossessed.
Struggling to make ends meet Michael’s mom has been left with no other option but to remove him from boarding at Maritzburg College and to move him to a more affordable school closer to her.
That’s the brief outline.
What colours in this picture is that Michael’s grandfather, his uncle and his dad were/are all College Old Boys. His dream since he could remember was to be a boarder at Maritzburg College – like the rest of his family.
And he has flourished in this College environment this past year. He has immersed himself in the BE culture, has shown commitment and discipline by participating fully in as many of the sports and co-curricular activities as time allows and has received glowing feedback from his teachers, mentors and housemasters. A harder worker you would not find.
As a young, impressionable 2nd form (Grade 8) boy Michael is in need of a structured, stable environment. In need of good, male role-models who are active, present participants in his life. And he has found this at College.
The plea for help from mom and boy was the last roll of the dice for them: “Please can you help us try keep Michael at College”.
And the tug at the heartstrings is that for all of the reasons that a boy might have to call “time” on his College journey, money should really not be one of them. Not for a hard-working and committed young boy with an enviable passion for the school.
In a perfect alignment of stars the universe crossed our Foundation’s path with that of a benefactor with whom we had the opportunity to share Michael’s story. As if by design it so happened that his College story followed a similar path – ending with him having to leave Maritzburg College in his 4th form (Grade 10) year. And although he has gone on to do very well for himself and unashamedly refers to himself as a “College Old Boy”, by his own admission he lives with a certain amount of regret that he was unable to finish College on his own terms and occasionally yearns for what could have been.
Our Old Boy has become the saviour of Michael’s College journey. He has generously offered an annual pledge towards tuition and boarding costs for the next four years – as long as Michael continues to embrace all that College offers and continues to make the most of this opportunity.
This story is still a work in progress. It has started with a happy ending and we are excited to see how it develops in the months and years to come.
The sad reality is that Michael’s situation is not unique. There are many College Boys who find themselves in these situations and for whom there may not be a generous benefactor stepping forward to help.
College means different things to different people and our shared passion for this school is vested in what it means to each of us individually. We recognise the value of the College journey in our own lives and the importance of boys continuing to be afforded the opportunity to experience this journey.
In terms of you and me supporting these journeys through the College Foundation there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Yes, we have the occasional supporter who can make a significant impact in someone’s life all on his (or her) own. But for most of us our value lies in being a part of a greater solution – part of a community of donors and benefactors who pay it forward through regular, specially-tailored gifts and commitments, through our continued support and involvement.
To me this is the bedrock on which College is built – the reason we all pulled that same jersey over our heads, all blackened out our boots – we are part of a team, each with a particular role to play and collectively we can help change lives and shape futures.
My appeal to you is to put a value on your College road travelled and to help pay this forward through a commitment to the College Foundation.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to take the first step…
*With his permission our bursary recipient’s name has been changed