Thursday, June 06, 2002
Rewriting history in Price Hill
It's an old story. Almost a cliche. I quit school because I was pregnant.
Sometimes Meredith Romelli said it was hard to show up at school just wearing the wrong shoes. Showing up, well, showing was an intolerable prospect. So she dropped out. This was more than a dozen years ago.
Married now, and mother to three more children, she has been through a disheartening array of low-paying jobs. I knew if I had more education I could get a better job, she said. A no-brainer. But try telling that to a teen-ager. Especially if she thinks you have no room to talk.
Meredith's father quit high school 40 years ago himself. Larry Owens lived with his grandparents, working after school as a pin-setter at a bowling alley near his home in Price Hill. I never knew my mother, he said. Didn't see much of my dad. After his grandfather died, tight money got tighter. He left school to work.
Then came 22 years at Lodge & Shipley Machine Tool Co. After that company failed, he worked at Landis Gardner, which closed in November. Larry Owens began to think machine tools didn't offer much of a future. And at age 56, he was told by prospective employers that without a diploma he didn't have much of a job future anywhere else.
His daughter Meredith had faced that bitter reality a couple of years earlier. The Westwood woman began investigating the possibility of earning her high school diploma. I was thinking it might be expensive. Plus, I needed some help with the baby during the day, she said.
A lean operation
She found what she needed at Lower Price Hill Community School. Free tuition. Free child care. A lean, but effective operation, this school has served more than 5,000 students since 1972 with a budget cobbled together from local foundations, endowments and individual gifts.
Meredith earned her high school equivalency diploma there in June 2000, then continued her studies at Cincinnati State College. Her father started asking questions, she said. So did her sister, Kelly Owens. And last weekend, Meredith was in the audience to see her father and sister presented with GED certificates.
Kelly, who was valedictorian of her class of 30, plans to study criminal justice. Meredith has been accepted at Christ Hospital's School of Nursing.
Larry Owens is still filling out job applications. But at least now he can check the box that says Completed High School.
Meredith brought her children in this week to meet the school's director, Jake Kroger. Really nice kids, he said. Well-behaved, bright. It's easy to see she's doing something right.
Amid the daunting tangle of information about what's wrong with the world, here's something that's right. Mr. Kroger sees a glass that is half full, to use one of my favorite cliches. And this is a story with another cliche or four.
Money well spent.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
And that big, wonderful cliche, the one that should be engraved over the doorway of places like the Lower Price Hill Community School:
It's never too late.
E-mail Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 768-8393.
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