Eyes on the prize
My oldest son is a college dropout. And soon he’ll be a college graduate.
Ronnie hasn’t exactly followed the traditional path toward his degree. He was awarded a prestigious scholarship to Arkansas State University during his senior year in high school. But he enlisted in the Marine Corps instead.
I wasn’t thrilled with that decision, especially after Ronnie explained that one of the reasons he chose to enlist was that the Marines would pay for his college education. This was a kid with a 31 ACT score. Paying for college wasn’t going to be an issue.
Ultimately, Ronnie opted for the Marine reserves rather than active duty. So after graduating from boot camp and occupational specialty training as a mortarman, he started college at ASU in the spring of 2012. His tuition, books, room and board were all paid. He had a little money coming in from his monthly drill, and he had a decent car. All he had to do was go to class and handle his business.
It didn’t turn out that way. He started dating a girl — the wrong girl — from a good distance away. He wound up spending more time on that relationship than on his school work. His attendance was horrible, and I wasn’t surprised when he called to tell me he was leaving school.
I was furious, as I think a lot of fathers would have been. We had one of the worst arguments we’ve ever had, and I was left very worried about his future.
It took a while for Ronnie to grow up, but eventually he did. He ended that awful relationship and eventually met his now-wife, Christi. He got a decent job and then a better one. He became a father himself.
And he went back to school.
Taking online classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Ronnie has consistently been an honor student as he pursues a double major in criminal justice and history. He’s talked about law school, among a dozen other potential career paths.
Last week, Ronnie asked me to edit one of his final papers. He’ll graduate at some point in the next few months, although those details are uncertain now thanks to COVID-19.
It took him a little longer than some, but that just makes me prouder. My son made some mistakes along the way, but he learned and grew from them. Working a full-time job, raising two boys and handling his responsibilities as a husband, he kept his eyes on the prize.
I look forward to the day when I can watch him receive his diploma. Without a doubt, he has earned it.