The world gained so much from these two. I did too.

Ramapo High School was a dying place. And 2009 seemed to be the brink, but my Phys. Ed teacher & my Chorus instructor had a way of helping you forget that. Not by words. Just by actions.

They cared.

David Sachs showed up everyday at 700 am to meet me on the track during my Senior semester. I’d missed some classes in Gym and needed to make it up. He struck a deal with me. If I ran a mile every day, I could make up the classes.

My fat second string linebacker ass couldn’t run for nothing.

But he showed up everyday and watched me run around. The guys a classic coach. He’d crack jokes and make fun, but he’d also run alongside me sometimes, teach me how to breathe and help me understand the value of not giving up.

What I learned from Coach Sachs was how to be a man. He affirmed how to love and respect women. To be playful and charismatic, but always present. To open doors–he’d once called someone out for not. To be hard on boys, but understanding– to joke, to be stern and always be present. To be attentive. He wasn’t too much of any one thing and that made him exactly who we needed him to be.

Sachs could rip you apart with his jokes. And he could leave you feeling pretty bad, but he’d laugh it off and you couldn’t help but laugh too.

I didn’t get the hardest of it.

He went light on me and only cracked jokes when it was just us on the track or us walking around. He went hard on the people that could take it. The ones who didn’t have much to prove.

He had an air of lightness to him. I admired that so much. And respect it.

Linda Ford had us singing all day long. This White woman had soul. She understood the struggle. And she showed up to do whatever she could to cushion it. Not a lot of people at school knew my story. Growing up I didn’t believe much in myself and home wasn’t the best place either. But if you didn’t know that part of my story, you definitely don’t know that I sang competitively for at least 8 years in New York State–Mrs. Ford led me the last 3.

Back to being not the best kid.

I didn’t act up. That’s not how I was raised. But I did scheme.

My biggest scheme was always skipping class to go hang out with Mrs. Ford. She knew it too. And she let me do it. Sometimes I’d just show up and talk to her. About life, the district, her kids, music.

We talked most about NYSSMA. That’s the New York State School Music Association. When I was in elementary school, Mrs. Arroyo tagged me as someone with pipes (that means I could sing). Ever since, music was my outlet. I competed in NYSSMA every year since I was in elementary school.

Mrs. Ford helped me compete in the highest level. I wanted to go All State. She taught me how to read sheet music, put in extra time before school/after school/ when I was skipping class.

I scored a 99/100 as a Bass singing some Italian or French songs (that I would have never even had on my radar had it not been for her), but to get All State as a Bass that year you needed a 102/100.

I was devastated.

But yet again, she showed up. She reminded me that there was a lot more to life. And that 99/100 was pretty good. Especially for a goof like me.

I spent a lot of time with Mrs. Ford. Especially during Junior year when I broke my knee playing Ice Hockey. She bailed me out of a lot of things around the school I didn’t want to do.

The one time I got detention she laughed at me too. If I was feeling myself too much: she humbled me. Sachs did too. Oh, yes he did. *chuckles*

While Rockland is a generally a good place to grow up, Spring Valley had/has its challenges. Going to High School at Ramapo, while a unique and amazing in its own right– was reasonably different than going to a super resourced Clarkstown North, Nyack or Nanuet.

Coach Sachs and Mrs. Ford wouldn’t let me feel it.

They meant a lot to a lot of people. Many of the people at Ramapo meant a lot to us. They put their time, energy and effort into us. Truth be told, I wanted to start a mentorship program so I could give back. I failed miserably. That’s when I learned how much it takes to make things happen at Ramapo. Reflecting now, they made things happen successfully for decades.

Compared to them, I was just a visitor at Ramapo. But they added significantly to me: my confidence, my ability, my work ethic.

I wish I was home to wish them goodbye and to share with their families how much they impacted my life. I don’t think I’ll ever be on impactful on anybody as they’ve been impactful on me. It’s important to look to them as role-models for how to be.

I wouldn’t be who I am if it was not for Ramapo. Ramapo would not be what it was had it not been for Linda Ford and David Sachs.

From the bottom of my heart I send you appreciation. *Moment of silence*

Thank you.

Ramapo. Gryphons. We all we got. 

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