There are people who enter your life and the things that they say and do stick for a lifetime. The two men referenced above are two such people. I always advise students of all ages to keep their eyes open for their heroes or heroines because they are right there waiting to help. Frank A Corrado was a guidance counselor at Eastside High School, I met him when he was probably in his thirties and I was a sophomore. He was so passionate about education and would constantly talk about how much he loved his job. He was more than my counselor, he was my friend, father figure and big brother all rolled up into one. The first time I ever saw a resume, it was his ridiculously long resume that he used to apply for a Vice Principal job. Critical choices that I made in High School were driven by his opinion and influence and he truly had my best interest at heart. While I never told him about the challenges that were going on outside of school, I think he was smart enough to know why I spent so much time at the school.
I called Mr Corrado up last year to say thanks and to let him know how well my life turned out due in part to him. Yes, almost 30 years later and he sounded like the same old Mr C. Full of energy and passion and it just so happened that I called him just before he was to retire. The last day of High School was tough I didn’t want to say goodbye to him and after I left the building the doors opened up and he said hey kid fill this out it’s for a scholarship which is due today. I sat on the steps filled it out writing an essay about what it would mean for me to go to college. He took that essay and sent it to the John Peterson Foundation. He yelled “check in sometime” and off I went to try to grow up.
That summer a letter came in the mail and what would follow would be twenty thousand dollars to go to college that was for tuition and any subsequent educational needs I had, completely unrestricted. I wrote the foundation thanking them and letting them know my progress including classes that I liked and some of the challenges I experienced. I received a letter from John Peterson who asked me to meet him in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ at a mall. Firm handshake in tow I listened to him tell me about the foundation that was established in memory of his father, he pointed out that the mall was owned by his family. And then he said that I was the only one who ever wrote back to let them know how much I appreciated the help and to provide status updates on how I was doing.
I made a promise to myself that day and I am on a journey to see it through. Starting with P.S. School Six but we will soon be talking to Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., Calvary Baptist Church and the rest of the village that help me be the best Gary possible. These men and institutions mattered and I want to make damn sure I do in the things I say and the commitments I make. Pay & Play it forward!