Bowsher grad celebrates graduation early before leaving home for Army

By Precious Fondren / The Blade
Fri, 22 May 2020 18:50:39 GMT

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Cloudy weather couldn’t keep a strong smile off of Parker Drane’s face at the realization that his four years of hard work wouldn’t go unnoticed.

The 18-year-old Bowsher High School graduate stepped outside his “congratulations” balloon decorated house on Friday to a crowd of family, his principal, superintendent, and military recruiter. The group congregated to celebrate the end of his high school career with a downsized graduation ceremony of one. 

The drive-by graduation serves as an alternative celebration for Parker, as he won’t make it to the optional designated drive-thru celebration Bowsher High school is having June 4 at Stranahan Theater. The fresh grad will instead be headed to his first job with the military in Virginia. Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Romules Durant greeted the graduate and offered a heartfelt speech before handing over a diploma. 

“I always thought about going to the military when I was younger,” Parker said about what promoted his decision to choose the military after school. “I always wanted to protect the people that I love and care about, and I still want to do that.”

The celebration came together after Bowsher Principal Teri Sherwood caught wind of Lori Wilburn’s — Parker’s mother — disappointment that her son wouldn’t be able to join the rest of his class in celebrating such a huge accomplishment.

“He's just worked so hard for the past four years,” said Ms. Sherwood. “We wanted to try to recognize him, because he is forever going to be protecting us in the future. So it's kind of like the least we could do for him.”

The principal added it wasn't hard convincing anyone to show up for Parker, as he’s a well-respected among staff and peers at Bowsher.

“Everybody knows Parker,” she said. “His counselor had mentioned that he always looks out for the little one. The little kid being bullied or picked on, he’s going to be the one to say, ‘this is not right.’ He’s going to look out for people.

“He’s also very active in school. He’s been in band. He also plays soccer. He’s just a fixture. People know him and he's a great kid. You know that good karma out brings good karma back to you.”

Mrs. Wilburn couldn’t hold back tears as her son’s recruiter handed her a flag to let fly when he is away.

“I’m excited and nervous,” she said. “He’s doing a big thing, but I’m so proud of him. He’s always looking out for the other person, always looking out. He genuinely cares about people and always wanted to serve his country.”

“Parker used to come to us all the time whenever we had class presentations,” Army recruiter Gauje Rush said. “He always talked about his want to do something better and he decided he wanted to join the Army his junior year of school.”

Parker was so focused on joining that he completed his basic training last summer before his senior year.

“Parker was one of my first split option people that I put in, and every time I was at the school I was talking to him,” Mr. Rush explained. “I was there with him all last year and this year, so I felt like it was good for me to be here.”

Parker hopes whoever catches wind of his story finds a lesson in it.

“I kind of came from a low place in life and now I’m a graduate and in the military,” he said. “People can benefit from knowing that.”