He found success at school. It seemed so easy to listen in class and give back exactly what his teachers expected. He didn't ever have to study but he didn't have friends either.
He can remember clearly being alone on the sidewalk in 6th grade during class and thinking no one would miss him or even care if he just kept walking and never came back.
He also remembers exactly how the jump to High School the very next year changed all of that. He made his first friend in 7th grade. He ran against his popular best friend and won in 9th grade. By 11th grade he was President of Several Clubs and of the Student Body.
College prep requirements and curiosity about his name had led him to study both of the foreign languages taught by Mrs. Danner. French AND Spanish.
Excelling at academics led to hopes of college scholarships. His parents had already had the "we don't have the money to send you to college" talk. But they prayed he would be the first to make it to college. So he worked hard and looked for a school far enough away to grow and that would allow him to study abroad.
By the end of his Junior year he had earned academic honors, invitations to attend several Ivy League Schools, and the respect, admiration, and friendship of most of the 600 7th-12th graders at Buford High School. A friend for all but never really getting to let his guard down or share himself the way friends had shared with him.
During the summer before Senior Year he attended the Governor's School for the Arts in Charleston. It was his first extended time away from family and away from home. There he studied creative writing and became closest to the 8 students studying abroad from the United Kingdom. He watched how intriguing they were, and different, and how much influence they had among his peers. He wept when they left. More than anything he wanted to experience life in another country, too. But not just any country. France had captured his imagination. And he had already had 2 years of French.
He graduated High school President of the Student Body, of several Clubs and 2nd in his class. He can still give the first and last names of most of his 96 classmates. He can still see their faces as he gives his Salutatory speech from memory and from his heart. After the ceremony his closest classmates called him over for a surprise. They knew he had ordered his class ring but was too poor to pay for it so they had collected the money and gave it to him with a card saying how proud they were of him. Saying goodbye was getting barely bearable. He had had a whole year to prepare so the tears were not overwhelming. Still it was difficult. Only he knew that he intended never return to Lancaster except to visit.
So he set his face and heart north and west to the other end of the state to Erskine College, the best kept secret and best school in South Carolina.
At Erskine College every student was required to complete a semester each of Old and New Testament. Christ was lifted up and celebrated by faculty and students. Scholarships allowed him to fulfill a 10 year old dream...piano lessons!
At Erskine, the former student leader surprised everyone from home, including himself.Instead of immersing himself in campus politics he focused on academics, music, and acting. He acted in his first play. His dramatic role as a white-haired tired family servant during the early 20th century earned him a Best Actor Award the Spring of his Freshman year. He sang and danced in his first musical that same year.
Not sure what he wanted to do with his life, he didn't declare a major until the last day possible at the end of his sophomore year.
As the only French AND Spanish major he was chosen as the delegate to France in the Study Abroad Program.