AUBURN — Martez Proctor, 20, showed up for a recent interview wearing a dress shirt and a tie. He offered a smile, a firm handshake and the impression of a young man going places.

The Edward Little High School graduate wouldn’t be going anywhere, he said, if it was not for Assistant Principal Leslie Morrill and other faculty at Edward Little.

During a Feb. 26 meeting, School Committee member Ron Potvin was trying to cut the school budget. He asked why the high school needed three assistant principals.

Proctor contacted the Sun Journal to share his story. People in the community don’t understand what’s going on in the school or with their children, he said.

Today, Proctor works as a night auditor for the Hilton Garden Inn. He has studied at Central Maine Community College in Auburn and plans to resume college this fall.

Five years ago, he was a troubled student who didn’t care about school.

He went to school in four different communities because his mother, now deceased, frequently moved. He got suspended from a nearby high school after being accused of selling marijuana. (Proctor said he didn’t sell marijuana, but did use it). It was decided he’d live with his father and attend Edward Little.

When he came to Edward Little for the first time, he sat in a meeting with a school resource police officer and Morrill.

“She said, ‘We’ll be here for you,’” Proctor recalled. “’We’ll do anything we can to help you, as long as you can promise us your best. Don’t smoke pot. Don’t bring that here. Don’t bring trouble.’ And I didn’t.”

Change, however, took a while.

Initially he left the meeting thinking it was a joke.

“I didn’t care,” he said.

The old him acted out in class. He felt like he was on his own, he could take care of himself and “didn’t need this place,” he said.

Proctor said School Committee member Bonnie Hayes was correct when she said many of today’s students who act out have no fear of authority.

“I was one of those kids,” Proctor said. When he was in trouble, he didn’t worry. He’d think, “’What are you going to do to me? Expel me? I’ll just sit at home and play Xbox and smoke pot.’”

His grades “were non-existent,” he said

Morrill didn’t give up on him.

She checked in on him every day. “She’d talk to me, ‘How are you doing today?’ The same thing with the teachers,” Proctor said. “I wasn’t getting harassed. They weren’t calling the parents. They came to me and asked, ‘What’s wrong? Why aren’t you partaking in class? Why are your grades so-so?’ They cared.”

Often when he showed up at school early, Assistant Principal Steve Galway would let him in so he wouldn’t be cold. “He’d sit with me and talk,” Proctor said.

Proctor began to feel cared for. He said he began to change.

He started playing sports and working out with teammates. He began to believe the world offered opportunities, “that I had a chance to turn it around,” he said. “I started to come out of my shell.” The environment at Edward Little was “so positive, it rang me in.”

He began to believe what teachers and Morrill were telling him, that his grades, his official record, mattered. It would affect his future.

He noticed empty classrooms after school with open doors, teachers there to help. “I started opening doors” and got extra help, he said.

To make up lost credit, he attended the school’s “ELPM” program so he could graduate with his class in 2011.

His grades improved. “My senior year was academically one of my best,” he said.

Morrill said Proctor “was indeed in lots of trouble when he came to Edward Little. I had my worries when he first arrived.” After meeting him, “I just knew he could turn his life around. He needed some stability, a fresh start and a lot of day-to-day encouragement.”

A philosopher at heart, “he has grown into a wonderful young man,” Morrill said. “We never know the impact that we have on kids. My only hope is that I have helped some to find their direction.”

She has, Proctor said. The assistant principals make a big difference.

If Morrill wasn’t there every day, taking the time to reach out and help him, “I wouldn’t have stayed in school.”

Going from three to two assistant principals “would hurt the students,” Proctor said. “They’re there because they want to make a difference in kids’ lives. They succeed at such a great level. They get so underappreciated.”

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