Friday, August 10, 2007

Reflections on Cass Tech

If you haven't figured it out already based on my screen name, CT4Life, I am a proud graduate of one of Detroit's great institutions, Cass Technical High School. Legions of its alumni, some famous (musician Jack White, violinist Regina Carter, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick), a few infamous (auto executive John DeLorean, Kwame Kilpatrick), and many others less known, have made their mark locally, nationally, and even internationally.

An alumni group is holding a series of events this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of Cass Tech, which will likely resemble an "all-years" reunion. Scheduled events include a tour of the new school building constructed in 2005 (don't get me started on that!), a gala at the Detroit Historical Museum, and even a concert performance by Morris Day and the Time. Unfortunately, I just became aware of these events recently, and cannot attend.

The memories of my four years at Cass Tech are mostly fond and certainly ever-lasting. I knew that I was at a special place starting with my first day of ninth grade. Walking towards the school building, which rose nearly eight stories high, I couldn't believe this was even a school at all, but more like a grand office building not much different from the ones located further downtown. Entering high school was already an intimidating enough experience for me. I was a year younger than most of my freshman classmates, making everyone else seem gigantic to me in comparison. I had to take two city buses to travel miles away from my familiar northwest Detroit neighborhood to this strange, run down area called Cass Corridor a world away. And despite an incoming class of about 900, I knew virtually no one. Nevertheless, I knew that this is where I was supposed to be.

As one of the two most selective schools within the Detroit Public School system, Cass Tech wasn't just for anybody, and I knew it. Heck, I felt privileged to be there, even though I felt I deserved it, thanks to my strong academic background and entrance exam scores. For once, I finally felt as if I was in an environment where there were so many others just like me, people who had a willingness to learn and a desire to accomplish great things in their lives. I no longer had to be afraid of what people would think of me because of my interest in academics.

Years later, I'm even more confident that I made the right decision to attend Cass Tech. The solid foundation that I received there prepared me well for college, graduate school, and a successful technology career.

And I don't mean to sound like a snob, but in the circles that my wife and I tend to navigate in, when we meet other African-American professionals in their 30s and 40s who were raised in the Detroit area, more likely than not, they attended Cass Tech, or perhaps a few other schools, such as Renaissance, M.L. King, Southfield, Southfield-Lathrup, or University of Detroit High School. I find it odd that I hardly meet people who attended other DPS schools these days. And I can't even remember the last time I ran into one of my classmates from middle school who didn't attend Cass Tech. I sometimes wonder if my life would have been different had I not attended Cass Tech.

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for my beloved high school. I hope that today's Technicians have an appreciation of the legacy that they have inherited, and that they will continue to uphold the standards of excellence that are required of all who accept the challenge of attending Cass Technical High School.

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