In order for me
to get a college scholarship, I had to be poor.
Unfortunately, I was only poor if my father was out of the
picture. What was I supposed to do, shoot the guy?
Hmm. Not a bad idea. Short of murdering my
father, was it possible to pretend he didn't exist?
Could I get away with putting "deceased" on a college
financial aid form?
I figured it was
too easy to check. In that case, just how exactly was
I going to explain my situation to anyone who did not know
I knew my father
had money. I did not know how much money he had, but
he had MONEY. My father had as much money as
any other upper middle class parent at Saint John's.
off-chance I could even get my father to participate in
applying for financial aid, any college in the land would
take one look at his income tax statement and ask a very
basic question - Why can't this man contribute something to send his son
How would I ever
be able to explain my cheapskate father to a financial aid
office? "Well, my father gave me $400 and said that's
Let's say I told
Georgetown University that my father had renounced me.
Why should they believe me? If they made an exception
for me, then every father in the country could pull the same
stunt. "Well, now that my son has graduated from high
school, I don't like him anymore. I refuse to help him with his college tuition.
Please give my son a scholarship."
How would I
explain to a bunch of strangers at some college that just
father had the money didn't mean he was prepared to spend it
on me? I fully expected a formal letter from
Georgetown saying, "We have examined the finances of your
parents. We have determined your father is fully
capable of paying X amount of dollars. We are prepared
to issue student loans, but that is the best we can do at
Jesse H. Jones
Now that Dad had disappointed me, I
turned to the Jesse H Jones Scholarship
my last best chance to make it to the college of my choice. The
thing I liked about this scholarship was that I didn't have to
explain my strange father to anyone. I
was certain that Saint
John's determined the winner of this grant. If Saint John's
said I needed the scholarship more than anyone else, then I had
little doubt the foundation would simply take the school's word for it and
announce me as the winner.
To this day, I will never
understand why I was so worried that I wasn't going to get that scholarship.
Like I said, I was a virtual shoo-in. So why did I feel so
They say bad things come in
threes. I don't know if this is true, but it was for me.
First came the drastic upheaval at Little Mexico that made it clear my
mother was counting the days till I left.
Then my father humiliated me with his $400 insult. I figured all I
needed for my life to be completely ruined would be to lose that
Jones Scholarship. On the other hand, I told myself that no matter
how bad things were going, if I could just win that $4,000 award, my life would
be back on track. I felt like my entire future hung in the
balance. I was beyond nervous. I began biting my fingernails like crazy.
As March began, I knew from
tracking this scholarship the past two years that the announcement
would come any day now. Every morning I would run to the front yard
and rip open the Houston Post for news of the results.
This daily ritual continued
for five straight days with no luck. Then one day I saw the Post
had listed the winners. With my heart thumping, my eyes anxiously
scanned for the name of Saint John's School down at the bottom of the alphabetical
And the winner is....
No, that is not what it
said. The winner was Katina Ballantyne.
I paled as I realized
my classmate Katina from the mighty
Ballantyne clan had been given that scholarship
grant instead of me.
I felt like I had been
kicked in the stomach.
Ballantyne had won the scholarship? C'mon, I don't believe it.
There must be some mistake. I looked again. Sure enough, that was her name next to "St.
John's" on the list. I began to shake my head in disbelief.
A series of angry thoughts raced through my brain.
ridiculous! Katina Ballantyne lives in River Oaks.
Katina's father is a famous doctor. I have no father and I live in a barrio. I have holy rollers across the street and Mexican babies
screaming in my ear. And I have better grades too!
Give me one
reason why didn't I win this award!"
Dumbfounded, I stared at the newspaper searching for
some kind of explanation. Was there something about this award
that I had misunderstood?
The article said
that candidates are nominated by each participating high school.
Then a committee makes the final selection based on scholastic
achievement, economic need, community service and leadership.
had always been a good
student, no question about it. However I
definitely had grades superior to hers.
When it came to "need", I could not imagine any
kid in that entire school who needed
the money more than I did. Heck, I was the
Oliver Twist of Saint John's.
Community service and
leadership. Hmm. That gave me pause. By this
criteria, Katina definitely had me beat.
The words I fixated on were
are nominated by each participating high school."
My heart turned to ice.
my own school named the candidates and there could be only winner,
could be little doubt my own school had recommended Katina. But
why? Why would my own school turn on me? My school knew full
well how desperate I was.
The only way a rich girl from River Oaks could beat a poor kid
like me would be if the fix was in. Ergo, the famous Mrs. Ballantyne had
undoubtedly used her
considerable influence to swing the money from the poor kid to the rich kid. I was sure of it.
other explanation could there be?
I was so wobbly that I had
to sit down on the steps to the porch. The Jones Scholarship was
the absolute foundation of my plans to go to college. It was gone now.
There was no "Plan B". What was I going to do?
As I sat there
blankly staring at the Pentecostal church across
the street, I looked for some other explanation.
But I couldn't think of one. I felt so cheated. This was
wrong! It seemed pretty obvious that the powerful Mrs. Ballantyne had pulled strings to steer the
money her daughter's way. The decision was such a
blatant injustice that politics had to be involved.
And who at Saint
John's played politics better than Mrs. Ballantyne?
Finally I gave up. Now
began to take over. "It isn't fair!
The rich just keep getting richer!"
felt intense resentment towards Mrs. Ballantyne. I felt
an equal resentment towards St. John's. Mrs. Ballantyne didn't do this
by herself. Someone in the SJS Administration had sold me out.
But who? Not Mr. Salls. It couldn't be Mr. Salls. Please
not Mr. Salls.
But it had to be. Mr.
Salls was the Headmaster. He controlled everything related to
college admissions. I don't think Mr. Salls even had an assistant. Mr.
Salls must have signed off on this. I couldn't believe it. I
had always thought Mr. Salls was my friend.
That realization was
more or less the last straw. I always thought if things were
really bad, I could turn to Mr. Salls for help getting money for
college. Obviously I had just lost my final ally. There was
no one else left to turn to.
The decision to hand this to
Katina was a stunning rebuke. It hurt so bad to think Mr.
Salls would give money to a doctor's kid when he knew full well that neither
of my parents would help me.
I threw down the newspaper in disgust
only to see it blow away into the yard. Who cares? I went upstairs and threw myself on
I was in a terrible frame of mind.
Three weeks ago Janie and Juanita had flipped my home upside down.
One week ago Dad had dropped his $400
bomb on me. Now today I got the bad news about the Jones
scholarship. This wicked one-two-three punch left me reeling.
How was I
ever going to pay for college?
no clear-cut options left. There was no backup plan. I had
pegged everything on the Jones Scholarship. I was sick with worry. I couldn't
eat. I was barely hanging on by a thread. There was no one I
could talk to about it. I had to absorb this enormous loss all by
The hurt and the sense
of betrayal was eating me alive. I had just been cheated out
of my best hope for college.
The highway robbery of the Jones Scholarship
rubbed me raw. I
had admired Mrs. Ballantyne for nine years only to get the shaft when it
really counted. Just my luck.
The rich get richer... I could
not get that thought out of my mind. Every day as I obsessed
over my problems, I felt a huge grudge growing towards Mrs. Ballantyne.
It was so ironic.
Out of all the people to wrestle that scholarship away from me, why did
it have to be Mrs. Ballantyne? To a messed up kid like me, that
was like finding out my greatest sports hero cheated to win. I admired her so much. Why
did it have to be her?
And Mr. Salls of all people.
I could understand Mrs. Ballantyne stealing my scholarship... hey,
Katina was her kid. She didn't owe me anything. She didn't
even know I existed. But Mr. Salls? Gee whiz, this guy was
a straight shooter. He didn't play games. And he liked
me, I was sure of it. Well, at least I thought he liked me.
Now I was having some serious doubts.
Mr. Salls knew better than anyone in
the world how badly I
needed a scholarship, but he gave that money to Katina knowing full well
how hard it would hit me.
That didn't make any sense. Did I do something wrong?
Then a thought crossed my mind.
Maybe I had brought this on myself. Maybe after I cheated on that German test, Mr. Salls was so disgusted he
decided the money should go to someone else who didn't cheat.
Maybe I needed the
money the most, but that didn't mean I deserved it the most. That
I hung my head in shame.
That was the only explanation that made any sense to me. This was
payback. Cheating on
that German test had cost me more than I could ever have imagined.
I was crushed. Absolutely crushed.
My self-esteem was
already in the pits thanks to my father, but Mr. Salls had just put
the final spike in the coffin. Today I officially hit rock
bottom. This was equivalent to the onset of the acne explosion
as the worst day of my life.
I felt so abandoned. My mother didn't want me. My father
didn't want me. The grocery store manager didn't want me. The
basketball coach didn't want me. The Headmaster didn't want me.
And now the woman I admired as the best mother in the world had just stolen
my scholarship and given it to her kid. My own mother hadn't done
a thing to stop her.
It was me against the
world... and the world wasn't just winning, it was running up the score.