Upon entering the 7th grade, I started attending school at P.K. Yonge in Gainesville. The dream my parents had for us to attend a small town school all the way through high school had shattered when the County’s School Board decided to consolidate Waldo’s high school with Gainesville’s high school. The consolidation caused a great amount of overcrowding in the classes which concerned my mother. Mother had heard about P.K. Yonge, which is a developmental research school affiliated with the University of Florida, and that they looked for students from all walks of life and all regions of our county. She eventually was able to get all four of us into this school that she felt would give us the best opportunities for a good education.
My first days at P.K. were interesting to say the least. I, a country boy, was now in a school with kids from very diverse backgrounds: university professor’s children, doctor’s and lawyer’s children as well as kids like myself. It was also the first time I attended a school that I didn’t know anyone in my grade. The only two people I knew at P.K. were my sister, Sylvia and my older brother, Jim. But, before long, I made friends with children from all walks and backgrounds.
Only a few days after beginning P.K., I went to my locker to get a 5 cent candy bar that I had brought as a mid-morning snack. As I pulled the candy bar out of my lunch bag, one of my classmates asked me if I had another one that he could buy. I told him that this was the only one I had. He immediately said, “I’ll give you a dime for it!” As I sold him my candy bar, another classmate approached, saw what was going on, and asked me if I had another candy bar he could buy for a dime. I told him that I didn’t have an extra one today but that I would bring him one tomorrow.
That evening, I told my parents the candy bar story and asked if I could buy two of the 5 cent candy bars from the restaurant with the dime I made at school. With a smile and a “For sure!” my parents commended me on being so entrepreneurial. The next day, I took the two candy bars, along with my own snack one, and headed to school.
At mid-morning break, I sold the two candy bars to yesterday’s customers for a dime each, and was about to begin eating mine when another classmate said, “I’ll give you fifteen cents for your candy bar!” Needless to say, selling a nickel candy bar for fifteen cents was quite motivating! So I sold it to him. That day, word spread that I had candy to sell, and I told potential customers, “Tomorrow, I will definitely have more.”
That evening, I took my now thirty-five cents and bought seven bars from our restaurant and took them to school the next day. Classmates were lined up in the hallway wanting candy bars and I was really feeling that entrepreneurial spirit! At week three, I was selling 20-25 candy bars a day! For some of my peers, selling candy bars might have been beneath them, but not me! I was rolling in the cash and was lovin’ it!
Before long, I was called up to the Principal’s office where I reprimanded for selling candy bars. I was told I had to stop selling them as the students were spending their lunch money buying candy bars instead of buying a nutritious lunch. My immediate thought was, “Well, shouldn’t that be their decision?” But, I kept my mouth shut as I was told that if I didn’t stop selling the candy bars, I would be expelled from school. Needless-to-say I stopped, and my entrepreneurial venture came to an abrupt halt.
Just a few years later, as I entered into my high school years at PK, I was told the Lunchroom Director needed someone to be a lunchroom assistant, which meant that person would clean the lunchroom tables and mop the floor after all the students had completed their lunch. Additionally, that person’s job would include taking out the garbage and also taking out the food scraps in big 30 gal pails to the loading dock where a hog farmer would come and haul it all off. For my services, I would be given a school credit (same as a credit earned in Math or Science) AND a free lunch! Others might have scoffed at such an offer thinking it would make them look bad. But, I welcomed the idea and took the position! It was something that I was not going to pass up!
I look back on it now and think how oblivious I was to the social ramifications of selling candy bars and being the lunchroom assistant. Neither was something that many of the other kids would have done because of fear of what it could do to their reputation. But, I didn’t worry about what other people thought. All I was interested in was the end game: a free lunch and school credits!
Throughout my life, this piece of Waldo Wisdom has been extremely helpful: don’t be concerned with what people might think; in reality, they probably aren’t thinking about you at all. Your fears of what others are thinking could just be something you’ve made up in your own mind. I encourage you to focus on your own goals and never let it concern you what other’s may think. Be bold and live your own truth!