An 81-year-old Father Keeps a Promise to His Son
The first year I was president of my education support professional (ESP) local, I received a thick packet from National Education Association (NEA) about American Education Week (AEW).
It contained good ideas and handouts about promoting education activities. It also had an AEW poster. I wasn't particularly impressed with the poster for that year, so I created my own.
In 1996, I was thinking about the drop out rate. So I created a poster that portrayed a sad, dejected, prison inmate. He was sitting on his bunk staring at the floor behind thick and unforgiving cell bars. The caption read: "Some Places Don't Require a Good Education."
That poster really caught on. It became a greater success than I ever could have imagined. I just wanted to make the students of my school think a little before they considered dropping out.
Send a Message
Over the years, that poster has circulated to thousands of schools in almost every state, plus several countries. It even reached the halls of my state capitol in Springfield, Illinois, and the White House.
I have created a poster every year for American Education Week since then. "Stay in School" has been the ongoing theme.
This year I wanted to send the message that it only takes a few years to earn a high school diploma. The majority of those who drop out are not likely to earn a G.E.D.
I was searching the Internet for an appropriate picture when I came across a story of an 81-year-old man graduating from high school and receiving his diploma with his classmates.
His story made for a good poster and example of patriotism, loyalty, and perseverance. It really touched me.
Lawrence Talamante dropped out of high school as soon as he could after December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He went to war and fought for our country in WW II and the Korean War.
He promised his son, Arthur, a lifelong educator who passed away in 2000, that he would one day finish high school. Talamante says he missed numerous employment opportunities and benefits over his life due to not having a high school diploma.
Finally, he learned of a government program that helped veterans get their high school diploma. After more than 60 years, he walked the stage in 2006 and received his diploma from Gallup High School in Gallup, New Mexico.
After commencement, he visited his son's grave.
My poster shows him in his cap-n-gown. Under his picture I wrote, "For as long as we live, our education never ends. Education is Endless, Timeless, and Priceless."
On the backside of the poster, thanks to my UniServ Director, Marcus Albrecht, I have Talamante's story along with another picture of him holding his fist high in the air as a symbol of victory.
Cracks to Craters
His story is one of selflessness. He put aside those things that he would benefit from and rushed to the aid of his country. His story is also one that tells how important education is and how a person should never give up on their goals especially when those goals are as valuable in life as a high school diploma.
October 3, 2006, the National Education Association announced a 12-point plan that combines the efforts of parents, teachers, business leaders and lawmakers using tactics tried through research and professional experience.
NEA President Reg Weaver said, "This is no longer about students slipping through the cracks of our educational system. Those cracks are now craters."
According to "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts," the national graduation rate is between 68 and 71 percent; while the graduation rate for Black, Hispanic and Native American students is about 50 percent. Graduation rates for Whites and Asians hover around 75 and 77 percent, respectively.
Talamante dropped out of school to serve his country, but never gave up on his education. Today we are looking at an epidemic of dropouts. We cannot afford for it to continue.
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.
Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --