HOWARD CITY — Never give up. That’s the advice Tri County High School graduating senior Patrick Overzet would like to pass along to future generations of students.
These are, after all, the words he has lived by most of his life and they’ve served him well.
Shortly after his sixth birthday, Patrick’s mother — divorced from his father — dropped him off after her regularly scheduled visitation. It was the last time, for a very long time, that he would see her.
Two years later, Patrick’s mother legally terminated her parental rights.
“My parents split up when I was just a little guy,” Patrick says. “I remember her quite well. I saw her again for the first time last November at my niece’s birthday party. She didn’t know who I was.”
Patrick’s father eventually remarried and the boy was adopted by his stepmother. Friction, however, proved to be the driving force behind the family dynamic. Until he moved out of the house this past year — Patrick is technically homeless, though living with a cousin — the home was, to hear Patrick tell it, filled with near-constant conflict.
Patrick is more than willing to shoulder his share of the blame; he admits he was something of a rebellious kid. Struggling academically, he was held back in fourth grade. Describing himself as a “hands-on kind of guy,” Patrick always had a hard time knuckling down to book work.
Failing fourth grade, however — along with a lot of guidance from then-middle school principal Kurt Mabie — spurred him on toward higher achievements.
“I really didn’t have any ambition until then,” Patrick says. “But being held back felt like defeat and I don’t like defeat. It didn’t completely kick in until sixth grade, but somewhere along the way I started trying.
“Mr. Mabie put the thumb down on me and reigned me in. I was kind of a trouble maker, but he just took charge and said, ‘No, this isn’t happening.’”
For his part, Mabie talks about Patrick like a father would a son; he’s obviously proud of the distance the senior has travelled — academically and emotionally — in the past six years.
Mabie — now principal at the high school — describes Patrick as “one of those kids that sort of mark your life,” and he doesn’t hesitate to admit they’ve developed a strong bond over the years. The adversity he has overcome should serve as an inspiration to others, Mabie said.
“I’ve been a principal for, like, 35 years,” Mabie said. “I’ve seen Patrick overcome some adversities in his life to get to the position he’s in now, where he’s gotten a job I’m envious of.
“I have a whole lot of kids in this building who are just like Patrick; hard-nosed, hard-working kids that are struggling to move forward no matter what the obstacles are. They’re making things happen and they’re not letting things get in their way.”
Patrick agrees that Mabie’s role in his life has been as much father figure and mentor as it has been principal. He gives Mabie much of the credit for helping to turn an undisciplined, surly middle-schooler into the hard-working, serious-minded young man who, unfortunately, will be missing Thursday evening’s Tri County commencement exercises to start his new job; working as mechanic on a combine crew in North Dakota. From there, he will spend the summer traveling around the country with the combine crew, seeing places he has until now only read about.
It’s the kind of “hands on” job Patrick has always dreamed of and he says he can’t wait to get started.
He leaves high school with some sense of sadness and loss, however. He says he’s going to miss the friends he’s known most of his life, both students and faculty.
“This is a good school,” Patrick says. “The faculty was always nice, they always have a smile and they’re always there to help you.”
The thing he will miss least, he can sum up in a single word: “Homework.”
At some point in the future, Patrick hopes to own his own farm and live there with his wife and kids (still hypothetical at this point).
“I just want to kind of continue being the small town guy I am now,” Patrick says. “The city don’t appeal to me much.”
As for Mabie, Patrick’s leaving represents just one more chick leaving a very large nest, one filled with young minds seeking guidance, trying to find their individual paths toward a brighter tomorrow. Still, some students leave a larger empty spot than others.
“Patrick and I have made a big impact on each other’s lives,” Mabie says. “To say I’m proud of him is an understatement. To say I’m going to miss him … well … that’s the one thing I hate about graduation.”