February 16, 2013

TRAVIS LAZARCZYK: Making the most of a 2nd opportunity

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Josh Gormley was nervous, so he wrote down everything he wanted to say.

click image to enlarge

ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE: Waterville Senior High School’s Josh Gormely was a high school drop out a few years ago, but is back in school and making the most of his second chance.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seaman

"Everyone makes mistakes, and those mistakes don't define who you are," Gormley wrote. "It's how you learn from them."

Gormley, to his immense credit, is learning a lot. Just a few years ago, Gormley was a high school dropout. On Saturday, he scored 25 points for the Waterville Senior High School boys basketball team. Waterville lost, 47-45, to Presque Isle, in the Eastern Class B quarterfinals, and the game marked the end of Gormley's high school basketball career.

This entire season was a gift, and Gormley cherished it.

"Sports has been the most positive thing that I've been involved with throughout my life. You have expectations when you're part of sports teams. It was good for me to have that. Coming to school every day. Going to practice. Getting good grades," Gormley said.

"For him, who cares about the playoffs? The big picture for him is June. He's got a future. He's a bright kid and he listens and he wants to learn," said Jason Briggs, Waterville's boys basketball coach. "This is a game. You have to remind him, with all you've been through, this is a game."

It was the January of Gormley's sophomore year when he gave up on school. You don't go to school for a day. Then you skip the next day, and the next. Then you realize, you're a drop out.

"I didn't come for a week, then I'd come for a couple of days," Gormley said. "I was dealing with a lot of problems outside of school, and basically I made some bad choices that resulted in me dropping out."

Briggs remembers Gormley coming off the bench and playing well, helping the Purple Panthers win at Mt. View on a Friday night.

"And then the next school day, nowhere to be found," Briggs said..

Briggs didn't let Gormley disappear. There were phone calls, text messages, visits to Gormley's home. The talks were not easy for either of them.

"How do you tell a kid, 'You've got to choose different friends,' " Briggs said. "You've got to remember, the kids that he knows, they don't go school. The things they're doing, they're not things you want any kid to be doing ... At some point in time, there's a crossroads. Which way do you want to go? The conversations went back and forth."

Other adults stepped up. Rae Folsom, a teacher at Waterville Senior High School. Eric Brown, the father of Gormley's friend, Max. Gormley needed a support system, and he found it. And he came back to school.

Gormley came back this year, his fifth year of high school, to catch up on the time he lost and earn his diploma. He had to petition the Maine Principals' Association for an extra year of eligibility. Before Gormley went before the MPA in early November, Briggs told him not to get his hopes up.

"We're trying to say, 'Listen you've got to come to school, whether you have basketball or not. Your state championship is college, it's a family someday, it's kids, it's giving back to your community,' " Briggs said. " 'The MPA does not approve this, generally. Prepare yourself that if they say no, you still have to wake up every morning when that alarm clock goes off and maintain good grades.' "

Gormley went to the MPA, and as he put it, "told my life story." Then he waited, but not very long. It took the MPA less than five minutes to grant Gormley eligibility. It took longer for Gormley to start to gel with teammates who had played summer ball without him, who were not sure he'd be back.

(Continued on page 2)

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