Many young people face struggles each year as they work toward graduation. For one Hobbton High graduate, it seemed an insurmountable obstacle until a teacher intervened.
School and other factors were becoming more than Jesse Gray felt he could manage and thoughts of dropping out became the exception rather than the rule. Fortunately for this young man, others to stepped up and offered encouragement so he could succeed.
Gray found himself struggling with school his senior year and was on the verge of quitting, but because several faculty members, and specifically band director Geoffrey Tart, the young man was able to turn things around and graduate in June.
Gray did not even get into band until his freshman year and then it was by accident…really.
“Jesse had injured his wrist at school, and as a first responder I went to see what I could do for him,” explained Tart. “All Jesse was concerned about was getting ready to play at church. That is when I asked what he played at church and he responded the drums. I told him that I had a place for him, and the next semester he was in band; the next fall he was in marching band,” added the band director.
Things seemed to get better for Gray but school was not his strongest point. As the band director was making plans for this past fall’s marching show, the student came to Tart and told him he was thinking about quitting school because things had gotten so bad for him.
“Jesse came to me as I was working on the fall marching program and told me he was thinking about quitting school. He took it upon himself to let me know because a person missing could make a big difference in the formation of the band on the field and for competitions. That is just the kind of guy Jesse is — concerned about others. I guess I was able to see something in him that others may not have seen. I spent over two hours talking with him about the decision. Jesse needed to know he was appreciated and needed. I shared with him that he could do whatever he set his mind to do. I told him he had talent and he needed to use that talent. It was unclear to me, however, when he left, exactly what he planned to do,” asserted Tart.
Gray was feeling overwhelmed. He shared that “life had become so unorganized and I felt I could not succeed at anything. It seemed like I didn’t belong. I did not have anything that I felt that I was part of…I was just here and I wanted to be more,” the teen explained.
“Mr. Tart helped me to see that I was a part of something. I was a student at Hobbton High School and a big part of the band. His words of encouragement, and those of others, helped me to realize that life was more, and I needed to take hold of my life and make things happen for me. Thankfully I was able to turn it around,” remarked Gray.
The band director felt much more confident that things would work out for Gray when he read a posting on the young man’s Facebook page. It read: “Everything is working out at school. Making good grades and shooting for As. But I couldn’t have done it without God and a special thanks to Mr. Tart. If it were not for him, I would have dropped out of school and tried to get a plumber’s license. I want to thank all the other people that told me I can do it on Facebook and to my face. I also want to thank my sister, Stacy, who is like my second mama. She gets me up and makes sure I do my homework. I think I am going to make it.”
Gray did make it, and when he received his diploma in June, Tart said tears came into his eyes as the teen walked across that stage.
“It is not every day that you know you have made a difference in someone’s life. But to see the results of just one young person that you may have helped along the way is certainly a blessing. I wish Jesse continued success as he goes through life. He is a fine young man and I am glad he came my way,” remarked Tart.