50 Years of Hope

One of my goals this summer was to straighten up around the office.  After lugging sacks of out-of-style dress patterns to the old dining hall and throwing the sample of Harvey-damaged multi-purpose room flooring into the dumpster, I came across two boxes of yellowed file folders.  Many had been repurposed, like the one that proclaimed “Account #141 – Buildings” on one side, and a boy’s handwritten name on the other. Each file contains the papers – journals, typing practices and essays – of young men who attended the school in the early years.  Bob Moore’s comments are in the margins of many of the essays – a treasure to read. My original intent when I sat down to go through the boxes was to declutter and recycle.  No one needs typing practices from 1972.  As I read what the young men – now in their 60s – had to say, I realized that I was not going to be the one to throw these out.  These tattered folders hold the stories of the students who first gave this dream a chance.

One file folder belonged to Speedo Mahon. Speedo had a way with colorful imagery as he wrote about getting jumped by “chukes,” imbibing Schlitz beer, and appreciating the female form, but his most touching work was from December of 1972, when the school nearly shut down because of rumors of rampant pot use.  He wrote

If Chinquapin ended I think I would become a big fat failure.  I don’t think I could attend a public school now. I’ve been here too long.  I’m positive I would never attend any college. All the plans I have made at Chinquapin would end.  Becoming somebody in this world would go down the drain with the rest of my dreams. I would probably become a hoodlum.  I almost did at one time. I would probably wind up working in a gas station or something similar for the rest of my life.  My mother would have to work for the rest of her life too. I hope Chinquapin doesn’t end. If it does I will most likely end too.

While some of our students would do well just about anywhere, many – like Speedo – would find it rough going without Chinquapin.  We offer so much more than an education. We offer belonging, community, social skills, leadership opportunities, safety and acceptance.  Most importantly, though, we offer hope.

Laura Henry

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