Though the future be uncertain, six seniors go forth undaunted


May 31, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,LAN NGUYEN is a reporter for the Howard County Sun.

We went in search of the future in the corridors of high schools and found six stories of resolve and commitment, of pride and emerging self-esteem, of triumph over adversity. Slightly battered by unruly economic times and the cyclonic whirl of turbulent society, these six men and women have nonetheless remained buoyant and steadfast. In search of keepsakes from the Class of 1992, we found six seemingly unconnected lives that seen as one create a patchwork quilt of persistence.

Richard White

Age: 18

Residence: Baltimore

Graduating from: Baltimore School for the Arts

Future: major in music at New England Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music or Peabody Conservatory

To some people's eyes, the tuba is big, bulky and ugly. To their ears, it's the sound of a dying whale. It's long been the butt of jokes in marching bands. But to Richard White, the tuba is a thing a beauty, music to the ears.

"People look down on it, but it can do what the trumpet can do," says Richard, one of two tuba players at the Baltimore School for the Arts. The other player is a freshman.

"People just don't appreciate it for its beauty. It can play sweet."

Granted, the tuba wasn't his first love -- that was the trumpet -- but now his devotion is complete. He wants to be the best tuba player he can be.

"That's all I'm interested in," he says. "If I fail, I have nothing to fall back on. I don't want to be just good, I want to be great. That's the ultimate."

He wants to become the first black tuba player in a major orchestra, and be the first musician to cross the classical-rap line. Imagine, if you will, rap in sync with sexy saxes and violins.

Richard's ear for music was recognized when he was 7. Vivien and Richard McClain, his legal guardians, encouraged him to pick up a musical instrument. He rejoiced in the sounds that came out of the trumpet and the smiles and applause he received. It was a joy that helped him forget an earlier time when "I didn't have a steady home, moving from place to place. It was kind of rough."

"The tuba's been good to me," he says. And so has the school.

"Where else can you play a tuba and be respected?"

Frida Berrigan

Age: 18

Residence: Baltimore

Graduating from: City College

Future: major in English literature or history at Hampshire College

One cold day in December 1990 found Frida Berrigan in the nation's capital, marching in front of the White House to protest the Persian Gulf war. She was with her father, Philip Berrigan, a longtime, well-known peace activist.

Before the day was over, Frida found herself in jail.

She was released the same day and does not have a police record because she was arrested as a minor. The experience scared her a little but reflecting on it now, she says she believes she did the right thing in protesting.

"War, in general, is wrong," Frida says. "This war in particular was wrong because we had no right to be there."

This activist walks in her dad's footsteps, but in different ways. "I'm not very outspoken," she says. "I'm sort of quiet. I believe strongly that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. I prefer not to take the leadership role and I like to stay in the background."

She and other students opposed to the war printed an underground newspaper, Appeal to Reason, and distributed 1,500 copies at school.

Frida aspires to be a journalist. "I would like to write things that would change the way people think," she says. "And by my writing, I can also change the way people relate as well. If it were a perfect world, people would relate to one another with love and compassion and work cooperatively toward common goals. I think most people are selfish and concern themselves with their own advancements."

Richard Hartman

Age: 20

Residence: Taneytown

Graduating from: Francis Scott Key High School

Future: Army Reserves and Carroll Community College, major in business

Two years ago and a little more than two credits shy of graduation, Richard Hartman quit school.

"I couldn't sit in class," he says now. "I had to get out. I figured I didn't need a high school education."

He found a job and made good money -- $36,000 a year -- as an auto mechanic at a Catonsville Toyota dealership. The work world, however, wasn't what he'd thought it would be. The work was mundane, the hours were long and the career ladder was short. He wanted more than a job; he wanted a career.

"And the bills started to add up," he says. "And the responsibility -- you know you're going to have to do this for the rest of your life. It wasn't something I enjoyed."

Without a diploma, he saw a limited future, a lifetime of fixing cars while others with college degrees advanced to jobs paying $60,000 to $70,000. So, he returned to Francis Scott Key High School this year to earn his diploma.

As an older student, Richard says, he has a better relationship now with his teachers, who treat him as an adult. And he has found himself in a guidance role, counseling potential dropouts who tell him they're sick and tired of school.

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