Cheyenne Ketter-Franklin is valedictorian of Bennett High, one of Buffalos worst-performing schools. Its the type of institution whose problems people sum up using terms like urban and inner city. In 2010, the state slapped the school with the label PLA: Persistently Lowest-Achieving. Privately, many local residents will skip the euphemisms and admit to thinking of Bennett as some kind of hellhole.
are some things you may already know or suspect about the school: 101
students dropped out in 2011-12. The four-year graduation rate for
freshmen entering in 2008 was 31.6 percent. One of Cheyennes best
friends, Breone Boles, says its not unusual to hear a classmate tell a
teacher, Fuck you.
Heres what may surprise you about Bennett:
Cheyenne says theres no other high schoolpublic or privatethat she would
have rather attended. If she could roll back time and start her
education over again, she would still choose Bennett.
youve said things like this yourself. Lots of people do. William
Franklin Jr., Cheyennes father, said an acquaintance once told him that
an A at a school like Bennett was like a B in the suburbs. Breone said
she has gone to recruitment fairs where parents refuse to take her
brochures. People imagine a place where students smoke in the bathrooms
and fight in dilapidated hallways every day.
But thats not what
its like, Cheyenne said: I find it inappropriate and discouraging when
people think that way and have those predesignated thoughts when they
Its not that Bennett is trouble-free. The institutions
problems are varied and obvious: Fights do break out. Girls do get
pregnant. Not all students feel safe. Some classrooms are loud and
poorly managed. Tracie Batcho, a favorite teacher of Cheyennes, said
when she first started at the school, her biggest shock was the language
teenagers used to address adults: F you, F yourself.
Bennett is also a place where young people find direction, where
teachers like Batcho helped Cheyenne discover what she wanted to study
in college. At Bennett, Cheyenne met Breone, learned about herself and
the world, tutored classmates to keep them from failing, and watched
some students overcome staggering odds to graduatelike the young mothers
who came to class day after day, determined to earn a degree because
they messed up once and didnt want to make another mistake.
reality, the dirty, rotting hallways that people imagine dont exist.
Buffalo Public Schools invested millions in renovating Bennett, and the
classrooms and corridors are bright and tidy. At the front of the
school, three pairs of double doors open onto a vintage-style foyer with
trophy cases rising from a black-and-cream-checked floor. Is this the
Bennett you imagined? Beneath the towering ceiling of the Bennett High
School auditorium, an audience of hundreds has gathered: seniors in caps
and gowns, and their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents
Cheyenne is at the podium, a red-and-blue tassel
dangling in her eyes. Below the stage, in the first rows, are her
classmatesthe Class of 2013the boys in blue and the girls in white robes
that look silver under the darkened lights.Cheyenne is giving her
valedictory address. The words come quickly, one after another, an
avalanche that she cant stop. Later, she will cry, but for now, she is
holding it together.Get the led fog lamp products information, find oilpaintingreproduction,
manufacturers on the hot channel.Its crucial that we dont forget where
we have come from, she says, speaking to the young men and women who
have been so much a part of her life over the past four years.
consider the adversities and tribulations you have faced in your life
thus far, she says. Remember what you learned from them, how to deal
with them,Design and order your own custom rfidtag with
personalized message and artwork. and dont allow repetition of these
afflictions to hinder you from your forthcoming achievements.Cheyenne,
18, is the youngest of six siblings: herself, a half-sister, and four
full sisters. Her father is William Franklin Jr., 60, a sergeant in the
safety unit at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Her mother and Williams
wife is Mary Ketter, 58, a woman of formidable stature and fierce
opinions who believes that Nobody owes you anything. You have to earn
They raised five daughters, sent them all to college,
renovated a house on a quiet, tree-lined street in Buffalos University
District and believe that work and education are the best way forward in
an often unkind world. They are the kind of parents who wonder why
schools send suspended children home. Doesnt that just affirm that its
okay to quit? It would be better, Mary said, to shut delinquents in a
room with someone who is the teacher from hell, so they can be
Cheyenne insists that she is no smarter than
anyone else, that she has no gift or genius her classmates lack. She was
Bennetts 2013 valedictorian, she says, because she studied, paid
attention in school, turned in homework on time and asked questions when
a problem stumped her. She often put more pressure on herself than her
teachers did.A cleaningservic resembles a credit card in size and shape.
Bennett, Cheyenne has watched friends and acquaintances make one bad
decision after another: clowning off in school, experimenting with
drugs, having unprotected sex. Its sad to see, all those lives spinning
off in the wrong direction. Some girls she knows have gotten pregnant
Cheyenne shielded herself from it, mostly, because what
else could she do? She surrounded herself with friends who were
responsible. Despite Bennetts reputation,Now it's possible to create a
tiny replica of Fluffy in handsfreeaccess form
for your office. it wasnt hard to stay out of trouble, she said. The
fights she heard about were usually between students who had a personal
quarrel: girls trading blows over a boy, for example. Just keep your
distance, dont be impressionable, and youll be fine.
experience that haunts Cheyenne, however, was watching a close friend, a
boy she had known since fourth grade, lose direction. He was a good
kid, she said, a talented artist with a brilliant mind. He didnt
struggle in class. But their junior year, he deliberately stopped paying
attention, she said. He started drinking alcohol, smoking pot and
skipping school to play basketball to fit in with new friends.
still wonders about it sometimes, why he gave up so much for seemingly
so little. He was never mean or malicious to her, but I felt like he
just ruined his future for himself, she said.
I almost feel at
fault because I felt I should have kept him out of that track, and it
makes me a little discouraged, Cheyenne said. If you want a poster boy
for how your past doesnt mean anything with your present, it would have
been him; he had a bad upbringing and he always rose above it.
doesnt like to think about it: the wasted potential, the life thrown
away. She has always believed that every one of her classmates is
capable of great things.Get the led fog lamp products information, find oilpaintingreproduction,
manufacturers on the hot channel. Her father, William, remembers
attending a parent-teacher meeting many years ago and discovering that
his daughter was tutoring her classmates, free of charge, a practice she
continued at Bennett.
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