It seemed that I was on a bit of an emotional roller coaster of sorts late last week. One day, I saw the results of what happens when young people overcome insurmountable odds to achieve their goals.
The following morning, I opened up the first e-mail in my inbox. What I read made me doubt my faith in humanity.
But let me start by sharing what I experienced during Bennett Mountain High School's first graduation ceremony. School officials were expecting maybe 300 to 350 people to witness the 37 students step across the stage to receive their diplomas.
Instead, the commons area at the junior high school was standing room only as they watched these students complete this chapter in their academic journey. Before this school opened three years ago, these students didn't stand much of a chance to make it this far.
Most of them were struggling with their academic endeavors for a number of reasons. Those challenges had convinced many of them to drop out of school.
Bennett Mountain not only gave them a chance to step back into school, but it gave them the hands-on guidance and direction they needed to not only succeed in school but to go on to succeed in life. They were given a second change, which all of them took and held onto tightly once they had that diploma in their hands.
I don't think there were many dry eyes in the commons area at the junior high school that evening. Parents, overcome by emotion, cried and hugged one another as their sons and daughters passed by.
What had me wiping tears from the corners of my eyes was listening to Liam Mulligan bear his soul in front of everyone seated in the audience. Mustering up a great deal of personal courage, he shared with all of us the struggles he faced early in his high school years. The obstacles thrown in his path left him with no direction, no purpose and no sense of hope.
But as he so eloquently put it, he closed the door to that chapter of his life and opened another one filled with a renewed sense of purpose and the possibilities of an amazing future.
I understand what Liam went through because I saw the same thing happen to one of my high school friends. Facing the same downward spiral into despair, my friend was given the same opportunity to change his life and a second chance to succeed in whatever he wanted.
I wish Liam and the other 36 students representing Bennett Mountain's Class of 2016 all my best.
At the same time, I think it would be remiss if I didn't extend the same wishes to those who graduated from Mountain Home High School, Glenns Ferry High School and Richard McKenna Charter High School. While these other students might have had a less-eventful journey in their academic pursuits, what they accomplished is equally important.
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After the Bennett Mountain graduation, I came into the office on Friday feeling refreshed with a renewed sense of purpose. I was still reflecting on everything I saw and heard at the previous night's commencement.
At that point, I didn't think anything could ruin my happy, upbeat mood. That's when I opened the e-mail from the Mountain Home Police Department regarding two break-ins we had the night before at North and East elementary schools.
My cheerful mood instantly vanished and left me feeling not only furious but asking just one question: Why?
I don't get. I simply don't get it.
It's bad enough that we had people break into the schools and steal property that didn't belong to them. The idea that they had to inflict so much misery by deliberately trashing and flooding classrooms and destroying school property goes well beyond petit theft or vandalism.
In my book, there's nothing that anyone could use to justify this kind of behavior. What they did was cruel, capricious and vindictive.
While this case is far from being closed, I think it's important to emphasize that these crimes didn't hurt just one person. It directly affected every student, every teacher and every staff member at both schools.
For now, I'm comforted in the fact that two persons of interest -- two teenagers -- were identified in connection with the case thanks to some outstanding work by our city police detectives. I'm equally satisfied that the teens chose to cooperate with authorities.
However, I do have one (hopefully) small favor. I would like to see those responsible for these crimes to get the boot -- to feel the fullest extent of the criminal justice system.
I'm getting tired of giving people second, third and fourth chances to right their wrongs. It's about time we stop using the carrot and break out the stick.
In the past seven years with this newspaper, I've probably heard every conceivable excuse someone will use to persuade the judge to give them another chance. I'm sick and tired of hearing someone say they were "living hard," meaning they want to blame a bad childhood or something else for what they did.
At the same time, I don't want to hear their mommy or daddy start crying or begging the judge for mercy. In some cases, if parents had done their job more effectively, maybe their kids would known the difference between right and wrong and wouldn't roam the streets of Mountain Home so late at night.
Maybe, just maybe, those responsible wouldn't have gotten in trouble in the first place. Whoever did this messed up really bad. Now it's time for them to face the music.
-- Brian S. Orban