Making in the great north woods; Part 1- A dedication

Monoday at 5:30 in the Marquette Senior High School library there will be a ceremony to dedicate some 3d printers donated by my AP physics teacher in my name. For me it is both flattering and awkward. Would this have happened if I hadn’t broke my neck? Is it inspiration porn? If it helps kids does it matter?  I decided to write up a script to read:

Thank you all, especially my AP physics teacher Elsa Clement. I’m humbled and honored by having my name associated to your gift.

When I was young I had difficulties accepting praise. when you look at your achievements you see them from the inside out. They all seem flawed. “I should have known this, if only I would have done that, anyone else with my gifts could have done it- and better, I just got lucky, If I would have tried harder it would have really been something to be proud of” etc. They look if not inevitable at least obtainable.

To most of you I’m a story -a rather cliché one of bad decisions, perseverance and eventual moderate success amplified to resemble greatness through the presumption of struggle. If it is a useful narrative to you, please use it.

MSHS is a story for me and a large part of the personal story I use to describe myself. Four months after graduation, when I left the hospital I left as a white male from the richest country on earth girded in the greatest public education available, who happened to have a bit of a mobility issue.

I like to describe MSHS as the last outpost of culture and enlightenment on the edge of the great north woods. After my decade plus away from the place I use as my origin story, I have realized what made it special was not its remoteness but that It was the closest thing I have encountered to a true meritocracy -a place where you are rewarded based on talent and work alone, not race, gender or family connections. The other students I graduated with were the children of Marquette, all of it. The wealthy, the poor, the doctors, the mechanics, the university professors, the prison guards, the miners, the plumbers, those who couldn’t work- everyone. If you wanted to, you could learn nearly anything. You did not need rich parents to be prepared for the best universities of the world. All you needed to do was to study and be a child of Marquette. We were the beneficiaries of Elsa Clement and dozens of other teachers like her, thousands of parents and a whole city that felt that the future was worth the investment.

The job market in Marquette for professionals is desolate. Me and most of my successful classmates had to leave. Business and industry in the Marquette area cannot support 150 new professionals a year (not including the NMU students who want to stick around).  The handles that operate the world’s economy are located in Chicago and on the coasts. For more than a century, we have always had to leave. Soon this may not be true.

You probably are thinking “what a weird ending”. I decided to break this into two parts because both I’m lazy and want more content, and because I think you guys may be too lazy to read that much at one time so check back Wednesday. If you want to find out the ending before your fellow readers so you can spoil it for them and you feel like taking a short drive if you live in Marquette or an incredibly long one if you don’t, feel free to attend!

FYI if you too would like to donate to the MSHS makerspace contact Becky Simmons, MAPS Makerspace director, at rsimmons@mapsnet.org.

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