MCHS alums come back to visit, inspire students
"Live the Dream;" words from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. summarizes the repeated advice to Marshall County High School students from four successful black men who graduated before their Wednesday audience was born.
Perhaps they took their cue from MCHS Principal Keith Stacey who told nearly 750 students and an uncounted number of adults who returned to see some star students return: "You can be anything you want. Dreams can become a reality."
Alumns Colby Biggers, Eric Johnson, LaDon Love and Jason Maxwell put it all in perspective so students could realize they're like their audience, just older now.
Biggers spoke about how he: wants mayonnaise on his sandwiches; can talk a great deal; will be 40 years old on Saturday; and "just a while ago I was a country boy having fun."
Now, he's special agent with the Veterans Administration's Inspector General's Office after transitioning there from the U.S. Secret Service with security duties for the President during a national election not so many years ago.
Biggers recalls walking the streets of Lewisburg - 5th Avenue and Silver Street - looking to play ball, cards or to get something to eat, probably with mayonnaise.
Re-emphasizing the point that small town students can be successful in the big city was Jason Maxwell, who played baseball for the Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins organizations for 12 years. He's now head baseball coach at Ensworth High School in Nashville.
"Your teachers are your role models," Maxwell said, recalling that David Sanders placed him in the lead role of a theatrical production at MCHS.
"I told him he was out of his mind," Maxwell reported, but Sanders replied, "'One day you're going to be on TV and you'll want to be able to talk to the camera.'"
Stacey recalled going to a professional baseball game when Maxwell played and the former student took time to go to his role model.
Johnson was a special assistant for now-former Gov. Phil Bredesen. Johnson is now the associate executive director of STARS in Nashville, providing training on how to deal with bullying, alcohol and drugs, among other problems.
He recalled his high school coach Steve Reese telling him during a hard part of a game: "You didn't think this was going to be a cake walk, did you?"
Johnson thought he'd be told something inspirational in the clutch, but the words were practical.
'"Now,'" Johnson said, quoting Reese, '"Get the ball...'"
Love said he wished he'd made better grades during one part of his education, but he caught up and is now works for Turner Sports in Atlanta as the highlight supervisor for NBA TV. He field produces and edits features, and produces the show NBA D-League Central focusing on NBA minor-league basketball
Love called for applause for teachers and students responded.
He, too, quoted an influential teacher.
"'You can't go through life charming people,'" he said, quoting Cathy Jones. "'You have to do the work.'
"If I can make it from a single-parent home, you can."
The message seemed to hit home for many of the students.
Also during the program, Triston Conger, son of Shanda Sparrow, recited key parts of King's "I have a Dream" speech, and the MCHS Chorus sang Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror."