This is the type story that I generally refrain from writing. I’m always afraid I’ll offend someone. I believe my friends that are in this book will get a hoot out of what I’m about to say.
I was never in the book, Who’s Who Among American High School Students. Many of my friends are. I remember an envelope arriving in the mail my senior year, soliciting information on what subjects and extra-curricular activities I excelled in. I believe every breathing senior got one.
As a joke, I wanted to send it back in with a list a mile long, but figured doing such would land me in hot water. At that time I wondered if the book was on the up and up; especially with them sending me an entry.
While talking to other students they said they’d filled out and mailed the form back. I never questioned their motive but knew these guys were maintaining average grades at most. At that point I regretted not following through with my prank. Looking back at things it would’ve been hilarious.
When my son Gunnar entered high school he started receiving, Who’s Who Among American High School Students invites. That freshman year he filled out the form and plopped it in the mailbox.
Parents had to purchase a book if they wanted to see their child’s name in print. Joleen ordered three that year. By then I seriously saw it as bogus but Joleen didn’t.
Years previous, I’d submitted a poem to a seemingly legit poetry contest. The company came back several months later saying I was one of the winners, and that my poem would be published in an upcoming book. This outfit wanted to know how many books I wanted at $14.95 a pop.
Well of course I had to have one for my parents, one for Joleen’s parents, and one for myself. Mailing a check in for near fifty bucks, a year went by with nothing happening. Eventually I dialed a number on a copy of the entry form and was shocked to find it no longer in service. I’d been ripped off!
When Gunnar received his first “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” book, he was quick to point out the text next to a couple of his pals. After reading their merits I would’ve thought they were on the road to Harvard or Princeton. What they had put down was hilarious. I told my son I’d wanted to do the same 22 years previous.
During Gunnar’s senior year the book submittal form came in the mail just like clockwork. Once again I didn’t pay much attention as that was always Joleen’s department. When this senior edition of Who’s Who finally arrived, my son and daughter Miranda were looking at it with unshackled laughter.
Wanting to know what was so funny I hurried over to find out. Under Gunnar’s name was this mile long list. He’d included everything he could think of other than being a kitchen sink repairman. The Roof jumping award was hands down the funniest. Polo and square dancing were a close second.
Some parents might’ve been mad at their kid for such but I wasn’t. Gunnar was a superb student throughout school and ended up Valedictorian of his class. I truly believe humor helped get him through the oftentimes challenging academics.
The week before graduation my son was meticulously working on his speech. He asked me if there was anything he could add to make it funny. I had to think about that for several seconds,
“Yes, yes there is.”
That graduation night as he read off the names of people to thank which included God, parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends, he added one additional,
“I’d like to especially thank Governor Knowles for being here!”
Of course the whole auditorium began searching for that familiar face in the crowd; especially school faculty. Eventually seeing that they’d been punked, the room erupted in laughter.
My son went on to receive a congressional appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He says that four years in Colorado Springs were some of the toughest he’s ever had to face. Gunnar’s never outright told me, but I bet having a bit of the old man’s sense of humor helped pull him through some of the toughest days.
As far as the book, “Who’s Who of High School Students” goes, the company went bankrupt in 2007. By then critics echoed the same sentiments as I. This business was more interested in selling books and associated products than advancing a student’s career. For many years they were making a ton of money doing so.
One enrollment officer at a prestigious college said that whenever she saw a “Who’s Who of High School Students” acclaim written on an entry form, it meant absolutely nothing to her. Others echoed the same.
The following is a statement issued by a magazine reporter regarding the academic credential in being in these books:
“However, most admissions officers believe that the recognition has no such value and in fact some consider the “honor” to be a joke.”
When I read that I had to laugh. It appears I hit the bullseye some 47 years ago.
“And it says here that he played polo. This student lives in Alaska!”