Cheryl Scott is understandably proud of her son, Eric Scott. It’s not a reach to think that every mother is bursting with pride as her child accepts their high school diploma.
“I’m biased, of course,” she says, the pride brimming in her voice. “He is one of the most special people I have ever known. He’s sweet, funny and has a heart of gold. He is, literally, someone who will give you the shirt off his back.”
A single mother raising two children can be especially proud. Children like Eric make it especially easy.
“My mom is my inspiration,” he says, simply.
Scott, a straight-A student, also takes pride in his diploma from Spokane Valley High School.
The road to high school graduation can be a rocky one, and both mother and son readily admit that there have been some stones in their path.
Scott’s father left the family when Scott was 8.
“Eric took it pretty hard, understandably,” his mother said. “It wasn’t that there weren’t other men in his life. My parents, his grandparents, were both important parts of his life. His father’s parents were important parts of his life, too. But there’s something about not having that direct role model there that was difficult for him.”
Looking back, Scott says he didn’t understand exactly how much not having his father as an everyday part of his life affected him.
“I didn’t understand it all at the time,” he said. “I don’t think, as a kid, you can ever really understand all those issues. I realize now that I had some anger issues. I was acting out. I was making things difficult at home.”
The family tried counseling, but Scott says now he couldn’t talk to counselors. You don’t discuss deeply personal issues with perfect strangers, he said.
Understandable, his mother adds.
That’s where former Spokane Valley High teacher Keith Browning enters the story.
“He’d been my teacher every year from the fifth grade on – starting back when it was still the City School,” Scott said. “A couple of years ago he decided to get certified as a counselor.
“He told me that he needed a student to counsel as part of the certification process and asked if I would be interested. I told him I was.”
Talking to someone he knew and trusted made all the difference, Cheryl Scott explained.
“We met regularly for about four weeks and we talked through a lot of stuff,” Scott said. “It really helped me.”
On one of his trips to Minnesota to visit his father, Scott explained, the two went for a long walk together and talked through some issues.
“He explained some things to me,” he said. “We talked through a bunch of stuff. It was a good conversation. In the end I told him I forgave him.”
That simple act of forgiveness made a huge difference, Scott said. The anger was gone. In its place was a focus on what was most important to him: his family and his desire to help others.
Looking ahead, Scott says he isn’t sure where exactly he’s headed.
“I know I’m going to go to Spokane Falls Community College, but I have no idea what I want to study,” he said. “At least not yet. But I think that’s a good thing. I want to try out some different classes, find what really interests me.”
Still, what he wants to do with his life is firmly established.
“I want to help people,” he said. “That’s what’s important to me. How exactly I go about doing that, I don’t know yet.”
Teaching is one option.
“That’s definitely something I’m thinking about,” he said. “I look at what Keith was able to do for me that I would like to be able to pass on to others.”
The ministry, too, is an option.
“My church has been a very important part of my life,” he said. “I think that would be a good fit for me, too.”
Counseling, too, is a potential career path.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for counselors,” he said. “Not just Keith. My grandmother (Suzanne Scott) is a counselor at Spokane Valley High School and she is one of the great role models of my life and a great influence on me.”
Whatever he decides on, his mother has all the confidence in the world in her son.
“He can do whatever he sets his mind to do,” she said. “I’m not just saying that. He really can.”