Mario Bailey’s journey continues. As we previously reported in “Off The Lease: Mario Bailey Part I and Part II,” Mario moved last fall from Stateway Gardens where he was living illegally in his grandmother’s apartment to St. Andrew’s Court, an SRO for ex-offenders developed by St. Leonard’s House, a halfway house on the west side. On Saturday, May 11, Mario, who was expelled from Wendell Phillips High School as a junior in 1993, was one of twenty-one students who graduated from St. Leonard’s Adult High School.
The students in Mario’s class were drawn primarily from St. Leonard’s House, St. Andrew’s Court, and Grace House, a halfway house for women. They ranged in ages from 25 to 63. All but one were ex-offenders. From January through April, the class met four nights a week for three hours. The classes were held in a church basement that is not wheelchair accessible. Each night two of Mario’s classmates carried him down the stairs and then back up after class.
Among the speakers at the graduation ceremony was Kenneth Addison, one of the instructors who volunteer their time at St. Leonard’s Adult High School. He challenged the graduates to continue their forward momentum. At the close of his speech, he quoted Nelson Mandela:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Mario’s six-year-old son, Mario, Jr., watched the graduation ceremony from the arms of a friend. Later he tried on his father’s cap and gown.
“I’m so happy,” said Mario after the ceremony. “I couldn’t hold back the tears.”