Learning To Move On Early In Life, Jerry Harris Is Ready For College
Jerry Harris, 18, is a senior at Plainview High School in Ardmore, Oklahoma. After his parents split years ago, he left North Texas to live with his dad in Oklahoma. Jerry has gone through high school with a learning disability, but he’s graduating on time at the end of May.
Dealing with Change
Jerry lives in southern Oklahoma, but he still visits the brick Coppell home where he used to live with his sister Abbey and mom Susie Evans.
He’s ready for college. He’ll attend the University of Oklahoma and can hardly wait to join a fraternity — like his parents and grandparents — make new friends and take on tough pre-med classes.
Back in eighth grade, he was a gawky kid, dealing with a learning disability called dysgraphia. It interferes with the ability to write or print, to spell, and legibly put thoughts on paper.
His obsession back then was basketball.
“It pretty much means everything,” he said in an earlier interview, when he was 13. “Like, if I go three days without playing, I’ll get the jitters. I’ll start bouncing a ball inside the house. I’ll get in trouble because I’m bouncing the ball so much.”
Sticking to his mom’s highly organized rules helped 13-year-old Jerry stay out of trouble. She even made him sign a contract. For instance, if he didn’t help sister Abbey with school work, he could be grounded.
Mom’s structure wasn’t all that chafed him. His parents’ divorce years earlier still hurt. In busy, suburban Coppell High, crowded with go-getter kids, he felt no freedom.
“There are a lot of events to do around here,” Jerry says now. “I used to be in basketball full time and then homework down here and all that, but you know up in Oklahoma, there’s not a lot to do. And I mean my life has been extraordinarily relaxing.”
‘It’s Been Difficult But Good’
Jerry’s no slacker, though.
At Plainview High, he played basketball and even football this year, which he hadn’t done since junior high. Believing Plainview’s team could go all the way, he tried out. For the first time in history, the Indians played for a state title.
During these Plainview years, Jerry and his mother, would still get together, if only briefly.
“There’ve been many times we would meet in Gainesville and have dinner and he goes home,” she said. “I come back.”
Then it was back to Ardmore, and books, as Jerry excelled in math and science. He’s getting a jump on college: He’s already earned 21 hours of credit. His college GPA – 4.0 — is beating his high school average.
This hard work wasn’t pain free. To overcome the dysgraphia, he learned to take notes on a laptop. And Jerry chose Ardmore after his parents divorced. That was tough, his mom says.
“It’s been difficult but good. I think we have a really good relationship. It’s probably stronger than if he lived here,” she says. “I think I learned to keep hands off but with him, I think he still respected my structure with the way he lived his life there in Oklahoma.”
Thinking About The Next Stage
Along the way, Jerry also decided he wants to be an anesthesiologist. He accepts the life-and-death balance required every time a patient goes under. Make a mistake and someone could die.
“I’m not saying that I plan on losing a patient or anything, but if that comes, I’ll be sad about it, but I’m not going to let it hang over the rest of my life,” Jerry says. “At some point you’ve got to move on. And I feel like that kind of formed the moving-on stage with me when I moved to Oklahoma because it devastated Mom, but you got to move on at some point.”
At this point, Susie Owen is feeling good about Jerry and how he’ll handle the temptations of college.
“He’s always been an old soul, mature. He’s a mature young man. I’m not too concerned about the drinking or things like that,” she says. “I think he’ll make good choices. He’s got goals set for himself and realizes if he goes off that path, he won’t reach those goals.”
One of little sister Abbey’s goals is to learn as much from Jerry as she can before he leaves for college. She’s 12 now, managing her own learning challenges. Abbey admires her brother’s independence and accomplishments. He also keeps her honest.
“I don’t like to lie to him,” Abbey says. “I don’t know why I lie to my mom, but not to him. Eh. I’m close to a teenager. It happens.
What happens next for Jerry: Graduation. It’s Saturday morning. Mom and Abbey will make the trek to Ardmore to be there.
Class of ’17 Yearbook
Name: Jerry Harris
School: Plainview High School in Ardmore, Oklahoma; formerly Coppell Middle School East in Coppell, Texas
Graduation date: May 27, 2017
Next step: He’ll be attending the University of Oklahoma.
Dream job: Anesthesiologist
Favorite quote: “Hard work pays off all the time.”
If I could do one thing over, it would be: “Not taking the last time my Uncle Jim was in Ardmore for granted, before he passed unexpectedly.”