Sometimes things just don’t work out.
And, sometimes, things fall into place.
For Jade Hard, the last year-and-half of high school was a challenge. Things in her life were falling apart, and Hard was ready to quit and drop out of school.
She was not focused on the academic portion of school and was finding it difficult to succeed. She began to feel isolated from peers and from her school. Additionally, her parents were in the process of divorcing.
This combination left Hard feeling hopeless and helpless, and she chose to drop out of school.
Hard needed a change of environment and an alternative option to regain her focus on her dreams and ambitions. Ultimately, she met with her school counselor and scheduled a visit to the Mount Vernon Alternative High School. Hard reluctantly accepted the invitation to take a tour.
“I was very nervous about the alternative high school, I wasn’t sure they would let me get in,” Hard said. “But I was very fortunate for the second chance that Mount Vernon, Springville and everyone was giving me.”
It took about two weeks for Hard to become fully engulfed in the alternative education setting and even join the Mount Vernon community.
“I embraced all the change, all the new people, new school and new opportunities,” she said.
Hard, a junior, soon asked if she could join the track and field team at Mount Vernon.
Her transition into the Mustangs’ program came almost two months into the season, but it was seamless. She practiced for two weeks before having the opportunity to put the shot in her first meet. By her second meet, she launched the shot 38 feet, 1/2 inch, a throw that qualified her for the Drake Relays.
Under the tutelage of throwing coach Jon Bellamy, Hard continued to improve.
“It was very difficult to learn a completely new technique to throwing,” she said.
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Hard stayed the course and eventually broke an almost 40-year-old school record in the shot put, and continued to break her own record several times. The crowning achievement was winning the Class 3A state championship with a throw of 41-11.
Along with her success in the shot put ring, Hard formed meaningful connections with the entire team, quickly becoming a favorite with her teammates. Whether it is her sense of humor, her genuine interest in others or her ability to become a fast friend with anyone, Hard has fit right in at Mount Vernon.
“At Drake (Stadium) during the state track tournament I hid in the shade next to a trash can trying not to lose energy due to the heat,” she said. “I lost track of how many layers of sunscreen I put on, but I did not get sun burned.”
It was Hard’s first throw of the finals that won her the gold medal. She knew the throw was a good one, and after the distance was announced, she let out a cheer of jubilation followed by tears of absolute joy.
Life has done a complete 180 degree turn for Hard. Things that were not working out are now falling into place. She has found a home and a family in Mount Vernon through the alternative high school and the track team.
Her path now is paved with endless possibilities and a hopeful future.
l Jason Pershing is the boys’ basketball coach at Solon High School and director of the alternative high school in Mount Vernon.