Mark Wahlberg is proud to tell you that he is a high school graduate.
This might not sound like such a big deal to the average ear, but the former Marky Mark who built a successful acting career out of boy band beginnings, is here to tell you that it is. Decades after dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, Walhberg went back to high school — via online courses — and earned his diploma this summer.
Why would a wealthy man with a wildly successful career in his chosen field feel the need to earn a high school diploma? If you ask Wahlberg, it was to set an example for his children. He told People:
“I didn’t want the kids saying, ‘You didn’t do it, so why do I need it?’ They are all wanting to do things in their future that require an education.”
Besides showing his kids that he could do it so they’d feel inspired to pursue an education themselves, Wahlberg also wanted to do it for his own sense of accomplishment. He brought government statistics to his Huffington Post column about his decision to return to high school, noting the not-so-rosy outlook for employment and lifelong learning for high school dropouts. (They have a 12.4 percent unemployment rate compared to the 8.3 percent rate for high school graduates.) He also talked about his experiences growing up in a working class neighborhood in Boston, surrounded by negative influences and few role models, an experience he says that he knows he shares with many teenagers. He works with programs like the Taco Bell Youth Foundation’s Graduate for Más, which supports dropouts returning to school online, through his own Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation:
“I was able to meet with teens in these communities across the country, who are overcoming extraordinary obstacles to graduating high school. I’ve heard their stories — stories of family trouble, poverty and crime — yet I also hear strength from our nation’s young people.”
Walhberg shared that studying for his degree wasn’t without difficulties. Like any working adult, he had to juggle classes with life responsibilities, and he didn’t really want to tell his peers that he was working on his diploma. For most of us, that wouldn’t mean keeping taking high school classes a secret from Denzel Washington while we filmed a major motion picture together, but that was the case for Walhberg while he was making Two Guns:
“Denzel was always asking me what I was doing but I didn’t want to share that information with him. Nobody knew, because I felt like I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch, so I didn’t want to say that I was doing it until I actually finished it. What if I said I’m doing this and I didn’t finish it?”
I have taught and advised college students for more than ten years, many of whom dropped out of traditional high school and went on to earn a General Equivalency Diploma. Many of them come from backgrounds like Mark Wahlberg describes, and it’s safe to say that if any of them achieve the same kind of wealth and fame, it will be as much of an exception to the rule as his. But I do hope that every student achieves what they set out to, and that they have the same kind of pride in their accomplishment that Mark does. When that happens as a result of a lot of hard work — and, sure, maybe a little bit of luck — it still sounds pretty much the same, no matter how rich or famous (or not) you are:
If we don’t live by example, then what do we live by? I am proud to re-introduce myself to you today as: Mark Wahlberg – High School Graduating Class of 2013.
Image credit: Pacific Coast News