Friday, July 23, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 130

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 44
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 18
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 14


“We make a “crazy” decision.”

My son, Adam, was preparing for his high school graduation from Lexington Christian Academy and he still wasn’t sure which college he was going to attend in the fall. He had been offered a decent academic scholarship for the University of Cincinnati but he had not yet been accepted into the musical theatre program. He would need to audition for the theatre department and his confidence had been shaken because of a few unsuccessful recent college auditions. This university was recognized as one of the top schools in the country for theatre and Adam was seriously considering going there even if he didn’t make it into the theatre department. He figured that once he was there, he could keep trying until he got into this exclusive department. He was also offered a generous theatre scholarship to attend Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts, based on his credentials as a good student and actor as well as a good recommendation from his high school drama teacher, Chris Greco. Adam wanted a change and really didn’t want to go to a private Christian college, so he declined the offer. He also didn’t want to be separated from his girlfriend, Meridith, who had already been accepted at The Boston Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts. With a last-minute audition and a recommendation from Adam’s private voice teacher (who was also a teacher at The Boston Conservatory) Adam was accepted into this highly acclaimed school. When we asked Adam how much the tuition was, he admitted that he had no idea. It never occurred to him that it might be more than we could afford. Our agreement with both of our children was that we would pay for half of their college expenses and the other half would be their responsibility. Any scholarships that they earned would be deducted from their half of the cost of the tuition. This seemed fair to us because any scholarships would be the result of their own hard work. Unfortunately, since Adam had waited so long to apply to The Boston Conservatory, there were no scholarships offered to him. He was just to consider himself lucky to be accepted.

My sister Sharon’s daughter, Emily, was graduating from a small, private Christian school in Laconia, New Hampshire a week or two before Adam’s graduation and we were invited to attend the graduation ceremony.

Emily was supposed to be born a few weeks before Adam but since Adam was born seven weeks prematurely, he was born first. Emily and Adam ended up in a good-natured “competition” during their youth. Who would walk first? Who would talk first? Who would start school first? Who would get their drivers license first? Now, Emily was graduating high school first.

We noticed some unusual things as we listened to the speakers at the graduation ceremony. The “special guest speaker,” Bill Broughton, was a teacher from the school and although he was a quiet, soft-spoken man, his message was an encouragement to all of the students and the audience. The principal of the school, Dave Borchers, (also known as Mr. B.) introduced each of the twenty graduates to the audience. He shared some of his personal thoughts about each student and then listed some of each student’s accomplishments and aspirations for the future. My wife and I were surprised that this principal seemed to really care about these students and personally knew so much about them. The other thing we noticed was something that didn’t impress us. It seemed as if most of these students had rather unspectacular life-goals. One girl hoped to become a secretary. One boy hoped to work in his family’s excavation business. Some expressed interest in some form of missionary work. Several students were planning to go on to college after graduation but none were accepted into prominent “Ivy League” colleges. Those that were going to go to college had chosen small private Christian universities or state schools. I wasn’t very impressed.

The next week we went to Adam’s graduation from Lexington Christian Academy. The ceremony was a formal affair with all of the “pomp and circumstance” you’d expect from a serious college preparatory school with the outstanding reputation of Lexington Christian Academy. Many of the teachers and administration proudly wore their robes adorned with sashes indicating their educational credentials. The list of colleges and universities that Adam’s classmates were going to attend included Harvard, Yale, Princeton and other top schools. Very impressive indeed. This school had certainly prepared these graduates for the next part of the educational process. If I’m not mistaken, every student in the graduating class was attending a four-year college the following fall. That is quite an accomplishment for both the school and the students. But after experiencing Emily’s graduation ceremony and comparing it to Adam’s ceremony, we couldn’t help but notice a significant difference. At the time, it was hard to put my finger on exactly what the difference was, but I knew that I wanted my daughter, Cassy, to be a part of the small school in New Hampshire instead of the school that Adam had attended. Cassy had been put on a “waiting list” at Lexington Christian Academy but we weren’t comfortable waiting any longer for a spot to open up for her. We needed to make a decision. Only half seriously, I made a crazy suggestion.

In the unlikely event that a spot did open up for Cassy at Lexington Christian Academy, we’d be paying about $10,000 per year for tuition. We loved my sister Sharon and her whole family and we’d enjoy being closer to where they lived. When Adam went off to college in Boston, the rest of us could move to the Laconia, New Hampshire area so that Cassy could attend Laconia Christian School. The tuition was so low (about $2800 per year) that we could rent an apartment or condo and pay the tuition for less money than just the tuition for Lexington Christian Academy. I was rarely needed at my comic book stores because I had a good staff of competent employees. We could keep our home in Bolton, Massachusetts, just in case this situation didn’t work out. If it didn’t work out, we could just move back to Massachusetts.

After discussing this for a few days it started to seem like a real possibility. We called the school in New Hampshire and the school secretary, Judy Downing, arranged for us to come up for a mandatory student and parent information night and interview. After a brief interview we were asked to prayerfully consider whether this was the right move for us. Convinced that it was, we called a few days later and were told that Cassy would be allowed to attend this school. This meant that we needed to deal with a lot of major issues before the summer ended, like finding and renting a place to live in New Hampshire. But first, we were leaving on our huge family cruise soon!

Next chapter: The cruise.

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