The Star-News


Parents have a hand in good kids' success

Thu, Jun 03 2010 05:31 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

Recently I spoke to the "Society of Saints Scholars," a group of 11th and 12th grade high achievers at St. Augustine High School. There was double irony in me being there. First, Sister Mary Augustine was my high school principal, and there I was, speaking at a school bearing her name.

Second, Sister Augustine would roll over in her grave if she knew I had any connection to "scholastic achievement." In high school I cared about 1) sports, and 2) making people laugh. Getting in trouble for comedy was worth it. Glad I outgrew that.

I was also involved in the school newspaper, student council, yearbook and drama. Because I was so active, Sister Augustine nominated me for the National Honor Society. She soon informed me with a sterner-than-usual look that my grade point average and class standing barred me from membership. Oh well. Easy come, Easy go.

I spoke to the guys at St. Augustine High about the rewards of being a police officer. One of cop writer Joseph Wambaugh's fictional characters, a senior LAPD sergeant nicknamed "the Oracle" because of his street wisdom, continually told his troops, "Doing good police work is the most fun you'll ever have." Former NYPD Lt. Cmdr. Vernon Geberth's slogan is: "We work for God." Both happen to be correct. Being a cop is fun most of the time, and it's a noble profession.

I also spoke about the importance of following your dreams. If you're lucky enough to realize your dreams, you must also consider what might happen when the dreams hit a bump in the road or appear to be at the end.

Because my writing career is faltering now (publisher rejecting my latest proposal, and my agent's retirement due to failing health) I told the guys to be prepared for setbacks in their lives. I told them I wasn't sure how I was going to handle the roadblocks encountered in the writing situation.

I also mentioned my little set-to with cancer and the effects of the brutal "treatment" that accompanied the cure. I told them the true test would be how they handled adversity and how they dealt with their dream after that dream looked like it was fading. I hope I got through to them.

What impressed me about the students at St. Augustine is that they were gentlemen. I stayed for lunch. Many of them came by to shake my hand and thank me for the presentation. They were polite, a twofold sign of good upbringing and good discipline at school.

One teacher told me his wife teaches in a different school system. It was not uncommon for her to be told, "Outta my way, bi-t--," when in the hallway at class change time.

I noticed many wearing letterman jackets. Some of them looked like athletes. I saw several non-athletic appearing guys wearing jackets with letters. Looking closer, I saw "Academic" and other symbols on the letters. I liked that. Sports are terrific, but there is more to life.

One doesn't have to excel in athletics to earn a letter at Saints. That's great. One only has to look at the many messes college and professional athletes of today have made of their lives to know that athletic achievement is vastly overrated in today's society.

I see spoiled, self-absorbed teens all the time. Some drink and drive and don't wear seatbelts, killing themselves and their friends. Others are lazy, disrespectful and selfish.

Many of the guys at St. Augustine have something they learned at home and at school that sets them apart, and hopefully will set them apart in years to come. No doubt, because they are human, some will end up in hot water either in their lives, or in the justice system before everything is over.

But these guys have a good start. What they do with it remains to be seen. The parents and staff at Saint Augustine High can take a bow.

Basinski is a 35-year police veteran, 17 of them with Chula Vista. His column appears the first and third week of the month. Basinski lives in Chula Vista. His website is www.tombasinski.com.


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