With schools using the Alternative Method of Instruction, the world for many students has been turned upside down. The graduating Class of 2020 is primarily done if they have met the requirements necessary for graduation and are satisfied with their current grades. For most of the graduating class, they can have a little time to relax before entering into the next and most significant transition of their life. One local graduate saw it as an opportunity to take his next step a little earlier than expected.
Sam Davis is a member of the Class of 2020 at Paris High School. For years, he has known that after graduation, he wanted to join the United States Marine Corps. However, the path to that goal has not always been clear. Ten years ago, Sam was in the foster care system. He spent eight years hoping for a family. He was eventually part of Project Zero, where children in the system are allowed to meet with prospective adoptive families. In the group setting, the children mingle with the prospective parents, looking for their forever home.
Sam said, "It was my first one. I had been told that many parents do not want to adopt teenagers. Some of the others had been to 20 or so of these meetings."
Enter Mitch and Lacey Davis. With two kids of their own, they wanted to become adoptive parents. Lacey knew all of the best case rules, and even though Sam didn't fit into the ideological pattern, she knew the family wanted to adopt a teenager.
"We wanted to adopt this teenager. It has to be the fit for your family, and Sam was for us. More people should adopt teenagers."
Sam had never even heard of Paris, Arkansas, but he was excited to make the move.
It was not all easy from there, because as Sam entered the Paris school system, he realized he would be graduating at age 19. He was working his first part-time job at McDonald's when the school counselor came through the drive-thru.
Sam did not wait till he was back on campus, but immediately asked, "What can I do to make up the classes so I can graduate at 18 with my peers?"
From there, it was all hard work, balancing his on-campus courses while making up a year of courses in virtual classes. Sam was not only back on track, but his grades were improving. By
his senior year, he was able to take electives that he was interested in and took on the challenge of Computer Science and Programming, where he finished with an A. He finished as a completer in the Paris High School Agriculture department and in the Business department.
Last week, Sam got a notification about his Computer Science class meeting in an online meeting room. He was on the road but pulled off to join the meeting. Sam was on the way to take his diploma to his recruiter. He excitedly showed his diploma to the underclassmen and then, after encouraging them, gave a heartfelt goodbye.
A few days later, the community came together to give Sam a send-off of their own. Members of the senior class worked to secretly get the word out for a drive-by send-off for Sam. The Paris Police Department and the Logan County Sheriff's Department joined in, and with lights and sirens in full effect, led the parade of cars past the Davis home. Students painted up the windows on their vehicles, decorated signs and flew flags as they passed by the Davis home to show their appreciation for Sam, who would leave for Marine boot camp the following week. Students, administrators, and community members who did not even know Sam but heard about the event joined in. One even had the Marine Corps Hymn blaring as they drove by. It was a memorable moment for Sam, the Davis family, and for the Class of 2020.
Lacey choked back tears as the cars filed by, "It is amazing that these students, this community would do this. Many of them have been together since they were in elementary school. They did this for Sam, who they have only known for three years."
In a week, Sam Davis will be in Marine boot camp, following through on his dream.
"Missing graduation is not that big of a deal because I knew my ship date would likely be before then. But when I got my diploma and ship date, it became real."
Sam will go in as a Small Arms Repair specialist, as it is the fastest route to his goal of becoming a Marine Security Guard.
"They get to work security and go to Embassies all over the world," Sam said of his path.
When asked about going from that initial Project Zero adoption meeting to where he is today, Sam had some advice that is good for all of us in this day and time, "Don't doubt yourself. Don't sell yourself short