NEWBERRY — Newberry’s Mark Wright navigated some rough waters as he completed his final year of high school.
Thanks to the intervention of his father, Anthony Wright, and the teachers at the Newberry County School District’s Infinity School, especially Director and educator Tonya Jeter, Mark said he was able to return to making positive life decisions and turn his circumstances around.
Until his senior year Wright was a leader on campus at Mid-Carolina High School.
A three-year ROTC member, he rose to the rank of Cadet Captain and company commander to Bravo Company.
“I was a JROC officer and I really liked it,” he said. “JROTC was my favorite class.”
In those years he said he followed the cadet creed and worked to exhibit the courage, maturity, integrity and leadership it required.
He also played football for three years as a receiver and defensive back and he played four years on the MCHS baseball team.
But late in his junior year, an inner rage caused changes in the young man.
Anger ruled, conduct changed
Wright had conflict with a baseball coach during his junior year and let anger get the best of him.
By his senior year he said he was hanging with the wrong type of crowd and developed a bad attitude. Wright began skipping school and his grades suffered.
He became standoffish and his father said his attitude changed. The former B student began making C’s, D’s and F’s.
“We never had to worry about grades before,” Anthony said, “because he kept his grades up.”
His senior year his conduct caused him to be demoted to a number three cadet. His sergeant told him had he not gotten into trouble he could have become a Cadet XO or a Battalion Commander.
Things came to a head when Mark Wright got into trouble and was suspended twice from school.
Wright was among players involved in a locker room fighting incident that led to his being dismissed from the MCHS football team and being suspended from 20 percent of the baseball season. He also was suspended from school for that fight.
The second time he was suspended, he said, involved a trip to the principal’s office because of what he said involved two girls getting into a fight over him.
In a rage he slammed the door as he left the office, and he said a comment he made was taken as a threat.
That incident and suspension led to a round table discussion by school officials concerning the young man, one his father attended.
According to Anthony Wright, the consensus at a team meeting with MCHS staff was that his son was a student falling under the influence of the wrong crowd, so an intense intervention was needed.
Wright was pulled out of Mid-Carolina High and sent to the district’s Infinity School, or alternative school.
Father stopped life to intervene in son’s
A threat to send Mark to military school was on the table as well when his father took more drastic action.
“I took two weeks off from work and I picked him up from school each day. I spent more time there to see what really was going on,” Anthony said. “He explained he would try to do better and said the guys he was hanging around with were trouble but (there was so much anger in him).”
Anthony, a career counselor for the military who works in high schools, was in crisis management mode.
For a military officer who entered the reserves and took a civilian job when his son was young so he could have roots and be an active participant in his life, the stakes were high.
“He became so angry (when his grandmother who helped raise him, Hattie Wright), became sick and he became angry at me,” Anthony said.
The price for Wright’s anger-fueled misbehavior was steep, but his father said it was consistent with district policy.
Per district policy, Wright was barred from campus so he could not see his cousin, Jhi Wright, play point guard for the Rebels during his senior season. He missed the military ball, his senior prom and his senior baseball season.
The shake-up got the young man’s attention.
“In the beginning when I started at the Infinity School I was hard headed but they talked with me and I saw they cared and wanted me to do better. Mr. (Vance) Jones was tough. But I knew this was my last chance. I had to (overcome the anger I felt) and apply myself (for my dad),” Mark said.
Breaking through via Infinity School
At the Infinity School a breakthrough occurred.
“It wasn’t until Mark was at the Infinity School that I learned from Director Vance Jones that the source of the anger was Mark’s mom’s absence from his life,” Anthony said.
For Mark, a longing to have his mother in his life had been a source of pain and frustration for years and now that was coming out as anger and rage.
“Even when I was younger I would hear smart remarks made about (my momma not being around),” Mark said. “The crying and ache I felt as a child turned to anger (by my late teens).”
Once he learned of that connection, his father decided to do everything in his power to locate her.
Anthony went online and paid an investigative service to help locate Mark’s mother. She called him and they spoke for over six hours and they met for the first time in February.
“When he saw her he was so relieved. I had no [pictures even of his mom,” Anthony said. “And once he made contact with her he told me he wasn’t going to be angry any more.”
Wright filled idle hours with a part-time job at a local pizza restaurant. That way, he said, he would keep busy and idle hands would not lead to poor decisions. He also avoided the youths who contributed to his making poor decisions, though he was quick to point out that as a man his choices were his and his alone.
New goals, new dreams
This July Wright will enlist in the Navy as E-3 thanks to his years in JROTC.
The young man wants to be a pilot.
Anthony, I’m glad to see he once again has a direction and purpose in life.
His father advised he consider the Navy because that branch of the service has a path whereby an enlisted-man could eventually become a pilot.
Though his favorite subject is math, he decided to skip college and go straight into the Navy where he may pursue a mechanical engineering degree as he makes the Navy a career. His ultimate goal, though, is to become a pilot.
He also is considering serving in flight operations and as a flight mechanic as a way to work his way into a pilot’s seat some day.
The younger Wright also is considering service as a “tac p,” the person who is on the ground painting targets with lasers prior to precision air strikes, or he may serve in another capacity.
He’s been working out on a bench press at his house and been running with Newberry College football recruit K.D. Gray.
He continues to work at the pizza place as he waits to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the Navy, a structured career path where opportunity once again lies in front of him. Wright said he was thankful for the tough love and support he received from people in his life and that he plans to honor them with a path of distinguished service.
“Sometimes in life when you make a mistake you have to suffer the consequences but don’;t let that define you. You have to move beyond it,” Anthony Wright said, “and thanks to the intervention at the Infinity School and the dedication of their staff, thanks to the wisdom of Mid-Carolina administrators to send him there, and thanks to my son’s efforts, he was able to turn his life around.”