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You're Never Too Old To Learn

April 30, 2012 - Steve Schulwitz
I'm 44 years old, and I can't imagine what it would be like to go to college, let alone work 30 hours a week with second graders. Just the thought of attempting such a feat makes me break out into a cold sweat.

That is what makes Alpena's Jean Kroll so special. She spends a good portion of her week helping corral second graders at Lincoln School, finds time to do her homework, read and spend some time outside. Sounds exhausting, aye? The fact that makes this so special is Kroll turns 80 on Sunday and will be graduating from ACC on Thursday. For someone who is never short on words, I can actually say I have no words to describe the admiration I feel for her accomplishment.

I met Jean when I was in high school in Alpena and she was a security guard. I was always known to raise a little heck and ditch a few classes, and most of the time Kroll would be in hot pursuit doing her best to convince me to get my rear back to class. She never had to raise her voice, she didn't scold, and in some circumstances, didn't turn me in. Thanks Jean.

I recall one morning I was skipping my first hour and leaving the school to meet up with a pair of friends. Jean saw me and cut off my escape route before I could make it out of the building. She asked why I wasn't in class, and I told her I was meeting my friends and we were going to a Kiss concert in Detroit. She told me to have fun and be safe.

Now I'm quite sure she didn't fall for my fib, and I'm sure she wasn't surprised to see me back on campus during lunch hour when it was the best time of the day to flirt with girls, play cards and make plans with friends for after school. As I was sitting in the small commons "Mean Jean" saw me and approached once again. I figured this was going to be a trip to the office and a call to my parents for sure, but I was wrong. Instead, in a soft voice she asked how the concert was.

The fact that she knew I lied to her when all she was doing was looking out for my best interest and my education made me feel like a slimeball, which in those days, I probably was.

To her credit she never harbored any hard feelings and treated me with respect during my remaining year in high school.

When I interviewed her Monday, she remembered that particular day and we got a good chuckle reminiscing about it. With a sigh she told me I was a good kid back then. What?

I was far from a good kid back then, but I guess Kroll's love for children and her faith that they will grow up to be quality adults was enough for her to see the good in me, despite my dishonest ways.

Congratulations Jean. I'm proud of your latest accomplishment and what you continue to do for the youth in Alpena. Have a happy birthday, and if it isn't too much of a problem, could you call my parents and tell them I was a good kid while I was in high school?


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