41 Years Later

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Joseph Haynes poses with his honor society certificate. PHOTO BY HANNAH LESTER / THE OBSERVER

BY HANNAH LESTER

HLESTER@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

OPELIKA —

Joseph Haynes believes he suffered an injustice over 40 years ago that has now been righted.

Haynes said he was left off his school’s honor society list without cause or reason.

“My mother was very stern, very very stern … and she didn’t play about education,” he said.

Haynes said he knew not to bring home bad grades but also didn’t care about perfect grades or perfect attendance.

He said that all changed in the sixth grade. He watched as classmates all received honors for different things, and he was left out.

“That kind of struck me kind of hard because I realized I had the same ability that they did and I didn’t apply myself,” Haynes said. “… I made a vow to myself that from the seventh grade on, by six years later, I would graduate with more than just my diploma, and I was going to be an honor roll student.”

Haynes was determined; he rarely missed school, he had a 3.58 GPA and was hoping to be inducted into the honor society.

And in his ninth grade year he did make the Junior National Honor Society.

In the 11th grade, Haynes knew he had the grades to make the National Honor Society, however his name was left off the list.

He approached the advisor and asked about the oversight.

“She said, ‘We decided to let you mature a little bit more.’ ‘Ma’am?’ ‘Well, you weren’t voted in this time because four teachers and four students decided that you weren’t a fit for this year’s honor society.’ I said, ‘Ma’am?’ ‘Your grades are fine, but your attitude.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, can you explain that?’”

Haynes said there was never a solid explanation for the reason he was left off the list.

“It wasn’t based on racism either, because there was a white kid who was a straight-A student, a straight-A juggernaut student,” Haynes said, and they cited the same reason for that student — attitude. “… There were a lot of students that had lesser grades than I that were allowed in. So it was a huge class that they inducted for the honor society that year, but I wasn’t one of them.”

Now 41 years later, Haynes has received membership into an honor society.

“I just happened to be scrolling on the internet … and I saw something that said honorsociety.org,” he said. “I looked into it deeper, and then I saw what they had to offer and everything. I just signed up, told them my qualifications, my credentials, my past accomplishments, and then they sent me an email and welcomed me in. Then, after I paid my membership dues, then they sent me my certificate.

“So now, after 41 years of living with that pain and that disappointment … after 41 years, then, I finally got to be a member of the honor society. After what they denied me 41 years ago.”

Haynes visited his mother’s grave and made a tribute to her after his membership.

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