Believe in Yourself and Persevere

Mr. Lemon has been principal at Wilde Lake for two years.
Mr. Lemon has been principal at Wilde Lake for two years.


Some of us in high school knew exactly what we wanted to do and who we wanted to be. Some did not have a clue. But you all should know that the sky is the limit, and we will be bound only by the limitations we place on ourselves.

Life is a journey for all of us. It has certainly been a journey for me to be a high school principal in one of the best school systems in America. You may be surprised to hear that I was a pretty successful athlete in high school and several major colleges were waiting to see if I would be academically eligible after my senior year to accept a full scholarship to play for them.

But I wasn’t.

When I graduated from high school, I was excited about starting a career, a new job at the local steel mill in my hometown, just like my father had done when he finished school. However, after working at the steel mill for only 8 days, I realized that this was not the job I wanted to be doing for the next 25 years.

I went back to my high school football coach (who was also my mentor) and asked if he would call one of the coaches who had tried to recruit and encourage me to attend a junior college in either Texas, Kansas, or Oklahoma. After several phone conversations, a free visit out to the Midwest, and some much needed self reflection, I decided to take the opportunity that was given to me to attend a junior college in Kansas. It was a difficult decision because I had never been away from the Pittsburgh area for any length of time.

My family did not have a lot of resources, so I was fortunate that a family friend was traveling from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati when it was time for me to report to school and was able to drop me off at the bus station there because I didn’t have the funds to catch the bus from Pittsburgh. It was a long 36 hour bus ride with an eight hour layover in Chicago, and many other stops along the way. I am not ashamed to tell you all that I cried most of the way there, and it was a very difficult adjustment for me during the first several weeks in Dodge City, Kansas. At first I was very frustrated with the situation that I had found myself in, but I soon realized the opportunity that it provided me. During my time there I got focused and I worked very hard on my academics, improving my study skills and how I prepared for tests. I graduated in two years from Dodge City Community College, and was able to accept a full athletic scholarship to West Virginia University.

That was the key part of the journey that has brought me here today. Not many people know about my personal journey or the challenges that I have had along the way. I tell you this story to teach others the importance of perseverance and of family and friends who support you, and the power of positive thinking and believing in yourself. Now, I am passionate about teaching others the importance of making a difference for others, because someone made a difference for me in high school. I am a perfect example that you can do anything you want if you work hard, take advantage of opportunities when they arise, and believe in yourself.

I am now proud to say that I completed my first two masters degrees from West Virginia University, my third masters degree from the University of Maryland, and my Administration and Supervision Certification from Johns Hopkins University.

This is one of my favorite quotes, and it states:

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.
-Barack Obama

I teach others that we all have something special, something valuable to contribute. To give themselves permission to be imperfect. To give themselves permission to dream. To set a goal. To make a plan. To work hard. To dream big because now is the perfect time for dreaming. I teach others that now is the perfect time to claim their destiny, to persevere, to believe in themselves. This, I teach.

“I Teach” is a quarterly column written by an outstanding teacher, administrator, or community member chosen by the Paw Print Staff.