New diploma, fresh outlook

Unlikely high school grad university-bound after extraordinary commitment

Levi Gray can’t remember what’s in the letter he wrote to himself two years ago. He plans to open it today after graduating from Vic High..

Levi Gray can’t remember what’s in the letter he wrote to himself two years ago. He plans to open it today after graduating from Vic High..

Sometime after crossing the stage in his graduation gown today, Levi Gray plans to find a solitary place to pry open an envelope he sealed and signed two years ago.

Its contents, which he wrote to himself, are a mystery to the Grade 12 Vic High student.

“I don’t remember it,” said Gray.

The letter was a personal reflection project he did under the guidance of his math teacher and mentor, Robert Ammon. It contains answers to 12 questions about his life philosophy, his goals and general wellness.

“I really want to open it. I think it will be really interesting to see what I said back then compared to what I say now.”

Growing up, Gray’s family moved almost every year, meaning he never had the time to make friends. He rarely attended class and barely passed his middle school years.

“I didn’t see too much of a point in going to school,” he said, explaining nobody in his family has gone to university.

Things didn’t change overnight when he started at Vic High.

“I was taking all the basic (courses) because I didn’t think I could do any better,” he said. With help from his counsellor, however, he started attending class every day and his grades started improving. As his Grade 9 year progressed, he realized he wanted to switch into Math 10 Principles, a more difficult stream of math.

“I started making some changes because I knew I couldn’t get anywhere with adapted math,” he said, referring to the easy stream.  “I was really fixed on it.”

And that’s how he met Ammon.

Gray still remembers that first day of math class.

“I picked the front row,” he recalled. “(Ammon) was doing his speech like all teachers do the first day … and one thing that I’ll remember for the rest of my life is he said people going from Math 9 Adapted (the low stream) to Math 10 Principles (the high stream) … it’s like going from a bicycle to a Ferrari.”

He felt like the teacher was “tuned on” to him. “It was pretty nerve-wracking,” he said.

But instead of running away, he went to talk to Ammon after class to ask for help. In so doing, he started a pattern that would define both of their lives for the next three years.

Almost every day after school he went to math class for extra help. Ammon’s study sessions would sometimes go until 7 p.m. or even 9 p.m.

“It was really cool because after a while, other students started coming in after school,” Gray said. He and his new friends would turn on the music and get to work.

“This was a good thing for me because, being shy, I never really  hung out with anybody at lunch.” he said. “It really helped me get out of a my shell.”

Soon, he was earning Bs.

“It was such a big thing for me … My parents couldn’t believe that I was getting these good marks,” he said.

For Ammon, the hours and hours spent were a personal sacrifice, but one worthwhile.

“I really made a full commitment to his success,” he said. “There’s lots of students I feel I’ve made a difference with but there’s only so many students that come along that are in a place that he is.”

“Teachers all hope we get a student, one if we’re lucky, where we really truly know that they’ve had some benefit in more of a significant way than what we just do day to day. That’s what (Levi) represents.”

His commitment paid off. Gray was accepted to the University of Victoria’s bachelor of commerce program.

“Getting into pre-business is very exclusive,” added Ammon. “Only a handful of students are selected to do that.”

Gray is excited about his new start come September, and a possible career as an accountant.

“It’s something to work toward. I can’t really say whether I’m going to love (accounting) or not,

but I just know that it feels like the right choice.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner’s report confirms cause of death of three men at Sooke River in 2020

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen drown while ‘puddle-jumping’ in pickup truck

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Strong winds predicted for Greater Victoria

Environment Canada issues warning for Thursday afternoon

From Feb. 25 to April 30, the Galloping Goose Trail will be reduced to a single lane between Gorge Road East and Burnside Road East for a Capital Regional District sewer line renewal project. (Map via the Capital Regional District)
CRD sewer work brings delays to Galloping Goose Trail

Parts of trail, Cecelia Ravine Park impacted until April 30

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Most Read