It was and is a rough school, where I once worked.
The surrounding area and schools feeding into the 5A High School were tough, with a student population of whom more than 50% were Economically Disadvantaged, and there were a lot of the troubles that seem to come with living in a poor neighborhood.
There were drugs, gambling, and near-constant fights. Our kids often didn’t have great examples of problem-solving in their homes. Many had only one parent in the home, or two over-worked parents just trying to keep everyone fed and clothed.
There were about 50 or so students who were “Frequent Fliers”, always in trouble, and thus, always in and out of my office, waiting for their Assistant Principals, who meted out Discipline. Matthew was one of these boys, the ones I knew by name, who their siblings were, and their class schedules. Some were rude to me, even once we knew each other well. Matthew never was.
When shootings of particularly African American boys started making the news with alarming regularity, I would look at my Frequent Fliers and fear for them, so many of them being Black or Hispanic. They weren’t any more trouble than the White kids, it was purely the demographics of our neighborhood. But to me they were no longer Black or White, or Whatever; to me, a whole lot of them were just “my” kids, and I feared the day I might hear one of their names on the news, victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong skin color. Sometimes a kid I loved would come through my door and I’d think, Trayvohn Martin, and I almost couldn’t stand it, the tears and the fear would be so close.
Matthew wasn’t rude to me, or surly. Maybe a bit frustrated on occasion when called into my office again. He didn’t get up to too much mischief, despite the sometimes questionable company he kept; he just didn’t go to class.
But in the year after I left, supported by family, his Teachers and Principal, he did start going to class. He graduated in 2016. He had his whole life ahead of him. Armed with a High School diploma, his future was his to make.
Matthew was shot to death last weekend. He was maybe in the wrong place at the wrong time. The police are still looking for his killer, who was most likely targeting his friend Edgar. Both young men were left to die in the street. Matthew and Edgar became more statistics in our love affair with guns.
Matthew’s mother, who loved him and wanted only the best for him, will bury him this weekend. Matthew was more than a statistic to her.
Matthew was more than a statistic to me.
Matthew was a life just beginning.
God grant to you peace everlasting, Matthew, and may light perpetual shine upon you.