Yesterday’s article surrounding the multitude of failures on behalf of Monterey High School’s former ‘guidance counselor,’ Charles “Pokey” Looper, elicited many emotions from decades of Monterey High School students, teachers, staff and family members. I personally want to thank each and every one of you for stepping forward with your own stories of how negligence cost not only the support a counselor is paid to provide, but multiple full ride scholarships, which we should all find appalling. There has been such an overwhelming outcry in response to my article detailing the lack of support and humiliation I suffered under his charge, I was grateful to have provided an outlet to those who’d (unfortunately) shared similar experiences. My heart is heavy tonight, as I pour over the influx of messages, both public and private, expressing the undeserving treatment received by volumes of (then) teenagers, many of whom had little to no real advocate insuring the most promising future possible beyond high school. We can all speculate on why so many of us were discouraged by Looper from applying for college, even those who had SIMPLY to walk onto a campus and attend after being granted a sports scholarship. These students reportedly were directed by Looper not to pursue colleges for reasons ranging from academic rigor for which the student was told they were not equipped, to one student’s clothing being “too nice” for Looper to help her apply for financial aid. The common thread in all of your correspondence has been a sad, but collective, sigh of relief that none of us were alone in the marginalization of not falling under Looper’s favor. Monterey is a small town. Our hometown. A place that should have felt safe and supportive as we were making our way from dependence to independence by way of college or vocational school. I was moved to tears to read story after story that, today, we can share. Then, the embarrassment of thinking ourselves not important enough, smart enough or…enough, kept us silent and ashamed in the walls of MHS. We carried on like happy teenagers, but so many of us had the awful suspicion that we just didn’t belong. Little did he (or we) know that one day, we would all be connected, no matter where, on the globe, we had landed. I’d like to think, had he known the extent to which his actions would be disclosed publicly, in a show of support for one another, he’d have behaved much differently. We’ll never know. Even now, I am flabbergasted that we didn’t even have each other on which to lean. How sad. We were smart, capable kids. I know we could have made a difference, had we known the silent suffering of questioning what, exactly, we were supposed to do with ourselves after graduation. But, we made it through four years of high school without his assistance. I didn’t know anyone had shared my emotional hangover as a result of being told we were too much, too little, or just not good enough. I recall the school joke being that no one really knew WHAT Looper did except golf…no one seemed to know his role, and no one seemed to have answers after seeking his counsel. This information, I think, is safe to say, not new. We understood, even then, that Looper had a handful of favorites and he didn’t mind making it obvious that you weren’t one. But, what about today…what about 2018, when the scholarships can’t be retrieved, the athletes have hung up their cleats and unwanted paths were taken because we were made to believe there were not options? I highly encourage…no, beg, you to reconsider much of what I’ve read from each of you today and tonight. Not a single one of us deserved the humiliation of hearing we should, under no circumstance, attend a given college or not accept the honor of having school paid for based on our academic or athletic performance. If you are anything like me, I had to walk into that university with a head full of bullshit I was taught to believe about myself, only to discover, I am highly intelligent. I am highly capable. I am teachable and even LIKABLE. I had no clue I’d forego my planned post today in order to ask each of you to reconsider your dreams, the dreams that bled and died on Looper’s office floor. I recall telling my story to my younger sister, a few months prior to enrolling in college, that I was older than all the fresh graduates and her simple response set my head spinning…”The next four years of your life will come and go if you get your degree or not.” If you can still close your eyes and feel that yearning of “I wish,” regarding college, I’m here to tell you, we will launch our own pep rally and cheer one another on in possibly one of the strangest movements ever performed by a group of high school alumni. I want you all to know that sweet taste of victory as you are handed a degree in the discipline of your choice. I want you to fulfill your calling. I want to fly back to TN to watch dozens of my former classmates once again don a cap and gown. And, yes. I will definitely be there, in the crowd shouting the loudest. Will it be hard? Hell, yeah. Will it be convenient? Hell, no. Do you deserve it? Have you ALWAYS deserved it? Hell. Yes. With that I will close my most organic article, to date. I’ve often said, when I get out of the way, words come through me. Sometimes, when I write, I may work for hours on a piece and grow frustrated that I’ve failed miserably at conveying my thoughts. I hope I have not done so today. None of you have failed miserably. None of you have ever, ever been failures. Each and every one of you is deserving of the best life you can possibly create. If that still involves higher education, please, dump the bullshit passed on to us in high school. Forget what you thought you knew about yourself. And, make an appointment with a NO SHIT admissions counselor and just discuss options. If even one of you finds something inside is giddy at the thought of going back to school, act. Pick up the phone. Read through the posts from yesterday and find the host of former classmates in your same shoes. Go together, get lunch, go back to college. Crazier things happen, everyday. We didn’t get the start we deserved, but we deserve to start over. I’m rooting for each of you. And, I’m honored to have been entrusted with your messages and appreciate immensely the resounding words of encouragement. I received a message from one former MHS student stating he thought I’d attended college years ago. I apologize if that was unclear to anyone…I did attend and complete a four year university about 12 years ago. My intended post yesterday was meant to inform, expose and inspire. I certainly was shown more than I conveyed. I am grateful, once again for the time you each took to communicate with me and each other as we shed the light of truth on the lie that was Looper. You’re all incredible humans and I’m in your corner. Today, and every semester hereafter. Go. Fight. Win. Peace, Warriors.