Standing in front of a crowd at Sumner School District’s board meeting on Dec. 14, 16-year-old Ross Lindsey stared down at the piece of paper in his hands and couldn’t help but get emotional.
That piece of paper, presented to him by the district’s board of directors, placed Lindsey on the Roll of Honor, which recognizes notable achievements of students, staff and educators.
The award represented Lindsey’s work ethic, his perseverance and his outstanding improvement in his grades as a junior at Bonney Lake High School. At the end of his sophomore year, Lindsey’s GPA was at 0.7. Now, it’s at 3.7.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve done in school,” Lindsey said about his award. “I never thought I could do it. It was life-changing.”
For Lindsey, the award was more than just about raising his grade point average — it represented a redirection of his life; evidence of how much he’s worked to improve his motivation.
For years, Lindsey struggled in school. When he first moved from Spokane to Bonney Lake in 2012, he went to Sumner Middle School before getting a waiver into Sumner High School. But as time went by, his grades slipped so much he had to transfer to Bonney Lake High School.
I failed almost every class. At one point I had 70 missing assignments.
Ross Lindsey, student at Bonney Lake High School
“I failed almost every class,” he said. “At one point I had 70 missing assignments.”
Lindsey says his struggle in school was due to a detachment with learning — something many students struggle with today.
“I disconnected myself from learning,” he said. “I wanted to do my own thing.”
His mother, Lisa, felt helpless, trying her best to talk with Lindsey about his choices, but she could only do so much.
“There’s so many times you see that potential in someone and you can talk to him and talk to him and talk to him, but in the end it’s his decision,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do it for him. (There were) a lot of sleepless nights worrying about it.”
There’s so many times you see that potential in someone and you can talk to him and talk to him and talk to him, but in the end it’s his decision. I knew I couldn’t do it for him. (There were) a lot of sleepless nights worrying about it.
Lisa talked with Bonney Lake High teachers about Lindsey, who all said that he was a great person — it’s just that his grades were poor. It was something Lisa already knew.
“The teachers and people who are around him said he’s a great kid,” said Lisa, 50. “That was the hardest part. (He’s) a good person, but what (he’s) doing is going to affect the rest of (his) life.”
Outside of school, Lindsey had many interests — so many that he still doesn’t want to put a limit on what he sets out to achieve. He started playing guitar, writing his own songs and performing them at local coffee shops.
“I focused on my non-academic talents,” Lindsey added. “Now I realize that they’re all connected… I still want to do my own thing, but I’ve shaped it.”
Lindsey began focusing on his academic work at the start of the year. When asked about the catalyst for his change, Lindsey couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was — but one method he tried was simple enough.
He made a list.
“I had a blank page and I just started writing down my goals,” he said.
Along with “treating others the best you can” and “learning something from everyone,” Lindsey’s list highlighted the importance of family support.
“I look at the future a lot,” he said. “I think about how I can support my kids one day. I want to be able to give them what (my family) gave me.”
While Lindsey was struggling in school, Lisa said she could see how, as a parent, it would be easier to stop trying to motivate her son. But when she talked to her own mom, who passed away in 2015, Lindsey’s grandmother told her not to give up.
“And I can see how if a parent gave up, how their children can go the wrong way,” Lisa said.
Now, Lindsey’s goals stretch out ahead of him. While he has to take classes in the summer to graduate on time, he plans to go to college after graduation. He’s even started writing a book called “The Importance of Feeling Important.”
Everybody has the potential of being successful. If you use your potential, you can be successful.
Other struggling students have approached Lindsey, and to them, along with everyone else, he gives the same advice: “Everybody has the potential of being successful. If you use your potential, you can be successful.”