Dave Almany Books
Hope is life. Without hope, we have no life. No one should ever be deprived of hope. For many of the young athletes on the Roosevelt High School football team, hope was all they had. The “Forgotten Boys,” as I came to refer to my football playing friends at RHS, were not dealt the strongest hand in the game of life. Privilege was not a term one would use to describe the family fortunes pinned to the chest of any of the Roosevelt players.
So what lessons can be gleaned from the feel good story of Tyler Clubb, the white kid known affectionately by his black Roosevelt teammates as “White Chocolate?”.
Houston states the condition he inherited in quantitative terms: “Our first point of emphasis when I came here was to hold people accountable for their behavior. We had 38 identifiable gangs at Roosevelt in 2006. Today (April, 2008) we can’t identify one known gang in our hallways. If some of our students are in gangs, they are keeping it quiet. They know if they throw signs or participate in any identifiable gang activity while in our building, they are gone. No second chances. No gray area. If you are in a gang, you will not go to school here, and if you in any way display your membership in our building, you are gone. The gang members, we had zero tolerance for them. That is non negotiable here at Roosevelt High School.
Speaking with the older students of Roosevelt, whose tenure as Roughriders spans to the pre Mr. Houston days, a stark picture quickly emerges of a school that was overrun by out of control students; dominated by multiple neighborhood gangs who had taken control of the school hallways. Senior football player Quadricous Sanford in 2006 transferred to Roosevelt from South Panola High School in Batesville, MS, several months before Houston’s arrival. “Mississippi was bad,” Sanford says in a thick southern drawl, “but this place (Roosevelt) was wild. I come here and dudes are spitting on the floor right in the hallways, tearing up things and just being crazy. I say ‘why you do that, this is our school, why you tear it up.’ Mr. Houston comes in and all that changed. Here now we got discipline, not only in football, but also in school. Mr. Houston come in and just start(ed) kicking the gang members out. He tells us all the time “there is only one gang here now, the Roosevelt Gang, and everyone here is a member.
For years, politicians throughout the state have used the SLPS to shamelessly court votes based upon irrational racial fears. Judges have used the urban students that form the constituency of the district like laboratory test mice, in a complex social experiment that created an idealistic master plan that promised educational bliss, but delivered results that have borne little academic success, while indirectly destroying block after block of city neighborhoods. At the same time, predominantly white suburban school districts, in the name of social benevolence, have taken the brightest and the best from the city schools, leaving those less blessed in academic and athletic prowess, to defend for themselves in a system that is as dismal a failure as any school district in the nation.
Carter’s God-given athletic talent with his humility and a courage level described by another coach as “more guts than a fish market” and Carter would seem to have a perfect football pedigree and a future well beyond the confines of Roosevelt High School and the Public High League. Only one problem area can be found on Carter’s football resume: he stands, with shoes on, only 5 feet 4 inches tall and weights a slight 140 lbs. Carter’s RHS coaches emphasize his great team attitude. They tell college suitors that he would run through a brick wall if asked to. However, as college scouts are quick to point out, the hole in the brick wall the diminutive Carter would leave, would be a small one..
POLITICS & HEROES
Copyright © Dave Almany
Excerpts from Riding the Storm Out
Once Tyler was accepted as a teammate, the racial divide between his culture and that of his black teammates melted away- in essence, bridged by a camaraderie forged through endless hours of shared toil on the football field. Athletics teach youth a valuable lesson: respect is earned and lasting friendships are built, not on skin color, but as the end result of equals working together, striving toward a common goal.
HOPE PRIDE BROTHERHOOD
Our public schools today are not burdened by a lack of modern day educational heroes; just a lack of knowing where to find them. They are out there. Within the St. Louis Public School System - an organization infested with political agendas that find little time or resources for the education of students - I found heroes. I found at Roosevelt High School teachers, coaches and administrators whose one simple daily goal was to make a positive impact on the lives of their students; one child at a time.