Anyone who questions the value of a dedicated educator should spend a few minutes with Shadle Park High School senior LeRon Ballon.
When asked whom he credits with giving him the direction that will result in a high school diploma, it took only a moment to reply. He named several Shadle Park teachers but saved his highest praise for counselor Juju Predisik.
“It’s because of him,” Ballon said, pointing down the hall toward Predisik’s office. “He’s told me for the last two years, ‘You have to succeed; you don’t have a choice.’ He would find ways to motivate me to get my act together. Now it’s a habit.”
Predisik is one of 55 Spokane Public Schools counselors who received a layoff notice last month. That news troubled Ballon, who said Predisik has inspired him to pursue the same career.
If there’s anyone who understands that the path to success is rarely a straight one, it’s Ballon. By his best estimate, he and his family have moved 16 times – 14 between kindergarten and fourth grade. Before coming to Spokane, he lived in Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, California, Arizona, New Jersey, Maryland, New York and North Carolina.
He said that Shadle Park has offered him the emotional stability he didn’t feel during his first two years of high school at Ferris.
“It wasn’t just the school environment; it was my home life and a bunch of bad choices I was making. When I was at Ferris, I was fighting all the time, cussing at teachers, skipping classes. Let’s just say it didn’t go well.”
He didn’t exactly welcome the move to the North Side, even considering the troubled beginning of his high school career. His family didn’t have a choice – their house was scheduled to be demolished because of freeway improvements. But then he got a welcome surprise.
“My mom told me she’d let me choose where I wanted to go to school, and we’d get a house there. I’d been upset because I didn’t know where we were going next, but it was great that she gave me that choice.
“Moving so much made it hard for me to bond with friends,” he said, “and I was a loner for a while at Shadle, because I wasn’t convinced that I was going to be here very long anyway. But there was a group of kids who became my friends, just pulled me in. One of them came up to me one day and didn’t really invite me to her birthday party – she just told me I was going! They were the most loving people I’d ever met.”
Academically, Ballon had some catching up to do. He enrolled last summer in the NET program to recover credits lost previously when he failed courses. That dropout-prevention program is also scheduled to be eliminated this spring.
He’s been involved in several club activities at Shadle, including Invisible Children and the Gay-Straight Alliance, and loves the horticulture classes he has taken.