Thursday, May 30, 2002

Making the most out of high school

Published in the Current

As high school graduation approaches in Cape, the Current went out to find students who were determined to make the most out of their high school years. These are not the traditional high school stars, but they are clearly young people who are taking charge of their own destiny.

For Ryan Garrity, graduation day has been a long time coming, longer by a year than for many of his classmates. Garrity didn’t graduate last year, but decided he really wanted to make it this year. He buckled down and is proud of his achievements.

He will graduate with a cast on his right arm that keeps him from playing basketball, something he used to do daily. Instead, he has been keeping busy with his other hobbies, ones he hopes will turn into money someday: art and

He may be on the brink of discovering a gift. This year he took a number of art classes, and won $100 from the Cape Elizabeth Arts Commission for a piece of ceramic work he did. “It was actually the first ceramic thing I did,” Garrity said.

Drawing—usually with pen and ink—is another passion of his. “I want to make a comic book when I get older,” Garrity said. That may be another good beginning: he may yet find he has the drive and dedication to make it happen. “I can do it for hours,” he said.

And while many people fill high school notebooks with doodles or smiley faces, he focuses on humans. “I like drawing emotions,” Garrity said.

He is less hopeful about his music, as a white rapper from Cape Elizabeth probably should be. But that, too, he loves and can enjoy for hours on his own or with friends.

He said he didn’t start high school as a good student. “I didn’t like going to school,” Garrity said. But then last year he realized, “I’d rather be here than elsewhere. I saw where I could end up,” he said.

Watching his friends graduate a year ago, Garrity decided to finish high school. He said he has been accepted well by this year’s senior class.

Now he will finish his senior project – putting together a highlight video of the fifth-grade boys’ Amateur Athletic Union basketball team – and look for a job in Maine this summer, to be near friends.

He wants to go to college in the near future, and may move to Boston with some friends, he said.

Making the system work
The first thing Malarie Holcomb says about herself is that she has been taking figure skating lessons, and it’s a good metaphor for her life of new challenges and slippery rides.

She grew up the daughter of a Coast Guard officer who was transferred every few years. Before coming to Cape Elizabeth, she was at Massabesic High School. She moved to Cape Elizabeth as part of the state’s foster care system, which she entered at age 14.

“I’m actually one of the lucky ones,” she said. Other friends she has “in care,” as foster children say, are not so fortunate, she said. Holcomb hasn’t seen her father in six years, and hasn’t been allowed to speak to him either. She has been able to talk to her mother and brother, but hasn’t seen them in about three years.

When Holcomb moved to Cape she felt culture shock, she said. “It was hard at first,” Holcomb remembered of those first days and weeks at CEHS. She arrived halfway through her freshman year.

“People were nice but not inviting,” she said.

She soon decided to join activities and get involved at school, but even that was challenging. The swim team was more competitive than she had expected, but she met some friends. By senior year, she had a strong social network.

Holcomb is a friendly teen who is a bit nervous about all the reading she will have to do in college at UMaine-Farmington. This summer she may do some babysitting work, but plans to have some time off and relax, though she will head to UMF for a week in June to get a preview of college life.

Now 18, Holcomb is allowed to have more contact with her family, and graduation day will be the first day she has seen her father since she was in middle school. She’s a bit nervous about that, too.

Holcomb has earned a George Mitchell scholarship to help with college costs, and the state of Maine is picking up her tuition, as they do for former foster children who attend UMaine schools. And, as much as her foster family has changed her life, she too has influenced them.

Her foster mother, Lisa Kittredge, said of Holcomb, “she is one of my heroes.”

Community first
Mike Walsh has one of those friendly, approachable faces found in a naturally community-minded person. He is a volunteer firefighter, which he enjoys so much he wants to work with a fire or rescue squad while in college.

Walsh, a member of the Cape Coalition, was also a member of the Captain’s Club, a program that lasted but one year, bringing together sports team captains to deliver anti-alcohol and anti-drug messages to team members. He worked as a member of the Community Center planning committee, and swims and plays lacrosse.

Walsh was recruited by Wesleyan University to play lacrosse, and will attend next year, alongside his older brother, who will be a senior.

But what he calls “the most amazing” experience of his life has nothing to do with any of that. It was a trip he took in February to Korea with his younger brother Matt, adopted from Korea as a small child.

Matt, Mike, their father and their uncle went to Korea and traveled by train from Pusan to Seoul, crossing nearly all of the country. “It’s a totally different world,” Walsh said. He wants to go to China with his sister, adopted from that country.

In the meantime, he’ll spend the summer in Cape, working at the Shaw’s in Mill Creek and as a prep cook at Joe’s Boathouse. In his spare time this summer, Walsh will fight fires, play lacrosse in the men’s league at Portland’s Deering High School and fish.

After graduation, he and a couple of friends and their fathers will go on a father-son fly-fishing trip in northern Maine.