The High Road

Annah ElizabethLeave a Comment

I knew some people would be unhappy when I resigned as co-chair from our school’s Project Graduation committee.

After all, I was the lead person keeping it all together, and my leaving would mean more work for remaining members.

I knew a few of them would grumble amongst themselves, and talk about me in a poor light.

I didn’t begrudge them that, but I’d hoped they would eventually step back and see the bigger picture.

And I knew that one or two would publicly accuse me of quitting because I didn’t get my way.

I could live with that, too.

After all, those few were the ones who refused to look at any other options, and honestly, who cares what people like that think?

But I never expected the vocal members to outright lie about wanting to include alcohol in our fundraisers.

Maybe that makes me naïve, but I honestly didn’t see that coming.

They were so adamant they were right, and justified such actions because our fundraising efforts targeted adults.

“Alcohol is what sells,” one parent said. “Calvary is raffling off five cases of beer and wine,” another argued.

For fear it would sound haughty, I kept my “Two wrongs don’t make a right” thought to myself.

I couldn’t convince them that promoting alcohol in any way for our fundraising efforts was in direct conflict with Project Graduation purpose.

I never imagined anyone would go to businesses that had been supporting us and tell them that I wanted to exclude students from participation in the event, to misconstrue what I’d been saying.

I have no idea if the person who wrote me is fabricating or exaggerating, but she told me that one local business person said what I wanted to do was discrimination.

And that I can’t live with. It actually infuriates me.

I am also a business owner, and to have my name dredged through the muck like this is maddening.

And saddening.

Project Graduation events are hosted to create a safe, fun, alcohol and drug free night for graduating students.

The event is the celebration party.

The cause? To keep graduates safe on a high-risk night.

The underlying message? That people—adults included—can have fun without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Earlier in the year, I had two outsiders comment that too many schools are losing sight of what Project Graduation stands for. As I’d been involved in a previous group whose beliefs were much the same as mine, I couldn’t really relate.

The person I networked with about initiating this year’s group was a casual friend, a business professional involved in many areas of our community, and someone I had a great regard for.

Little did I know that he would make excuses for people who weren’t doing their jobs rather than hold them accountable.

Nor could I anticipate that he would be the type to jump right into the middle of the popular pool.

“It will be an event our kids will be talking about with their grandkids. They’re going to have so much fun they’re not going to wantto leave.”

That was the argument he went along with when the group majority wanted to choose a venue that doesn’t offer private functions. Ever. They are open to the public twenty-four-seven. A place that (I later discovered) also serves alcohol.

These two elements violate two of the organization’s promise: a safe and alcohol free event. The absence of a secure, self-contained building, not only leaves the door open for students who might decide to make bad decisions if they grew tired or bored (and they do), it also leaves each volunteer vulnerable, for it is we who pledge to protect the students.

“Maybe I’m naïve,” one mother said repeatedly, “but my kids would never break the rules and leave.”

As much as it pains me to say, two months after these rebuttals, her thirteen-year-old son ran away from home with a suspected drug dealer. Thankfully he was located and returned home, safely, within the week.

Though I had the integrity not to point out to this woman the irony of her situation, I do wish I’d verbalized this thought. “I certainly hope our children have other more fulfilling events in their lives to share with their grandchildren, that this one evening won’t be one of the most pivotal nights of their lives.”

Even the fact that we were more than half-way through our fundraising efforts, and hadn’t even raised a quarter of the cost to hold the event at this place didn’t deter Jack.

This potential disaster was ultimately derailed by one vote because my discussion of money and the committee’s responsibility to bear the burden of any deficit unnerved two people enough that they voted differently than they had been discussing.

As I rehash these details, I repeat to myself what I’ve been saying these past few weeks: I need to let it go.

But how?

Yesterday I ran into three community members who brought up the group.

One wanted to give me a donation. “I’ll be sure to get it to them,” I told him.

One whom I’d served with before.

The last, a parent who hasn’t been able to attend meetings and wanted an update.

All were shocked to hear I had resigned.

All unwilling to accept, “The group and I were looking at a few issues through different lenses.”

And all making the same arguments I had fought so hard to convey, at the mere mention of these fixations members were fighting for.

I didn’t have to name names.

I didn’t have to make a single argument, their words echoed the head-banging I felt I’d been doing the past ten months.

And though it is comforting to keep hearing that other professionals believe as I do, I am still conflicted.

I wish these people had been on this committee with me, because it would have been such a rewarding experience.

I am pissed that the people I did work with refused to see reason or logic, and that have stooped to sullying my name.

“You can’t lead people who don’t want to be led,” I said to my husband months into the process.

I am saddened for the friendships this has cost me.

I am asking myself if I could have done anything differently to have smoothed out the conflict, if I could have said or done anything differently to persuade the others.

I keep telling myself that I did everything I possibly could, that I gave it everything I had.

I keep telling myself that, “The people that matter know the truth.”

“I want to defend myself,” I said to another community leader who recently asked me about our progress.

“Maybe you should attend a meeting and explain to them your reasons for resigning.”

I told her I had, and paraphrased this resignation statement.
After last night’s discussions, and the decisions made, I feel that, though we want the same things for our students, we are viewing what that PG “promise” entails differently. I respect your right to your own opinions and ideas regarding the following issues, yet I stand strong in my convictions. As such, I am stepping aside to allow the committee to move forward without further conflict surrounding these and other issues.
“Well, then, you’ve already explained yourself,” she said. “You’re taking the high road. You can’t do any better than that.”
I just wish that path wasn’t so exhausting, that it didn’t feel like such an uphill climb…

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