Just eight days before he was killed trying to protect his mother from her ex-boyfriend, Vanderbilt's top football recruit Rajaan Bennett submitted the following essay in his multicultural literature class at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Ga., where he was a stellar student and athlete. At his memorial service on Wednesday, attended by thousands of mourners including Commodores coach Bobby Johnson, the essay was read aloud by his teacher, Allison Paulk:
“Somebody once told me that, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13). Life hasn’t been a walk in the park for me, but I’m thankful for the obstacles, hardships and accomplishments that GOD has provided for me. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be the Rajaan Bennett that you know today. I wouldn’t have things any other way.
Strength is the ability to do or bear things in the state of being strong.
In the year of 2000, I moved from the streets of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to the suburbs of Powder Springs, Georgia. A year later, my dad died in a horrible car wreck, and as a 10-year-old, I knew he wasn’t coming back. This tragedy rattled me to the core. I felt as if there was no need for me to live. I wanted to be as happy as the kids with dads and moms.
Some days I would wonder: Why me? But eventually, I realized that it was my turn to become a man. As I became older, I came to notice that in life you use strength as a blanket to protect you from this cold world.
I am the oldest of three and I have a brother with special needs who I have to take care of. I have to balance school, sports, friends and family — and it gets so hard, but I push myself. I push myself like a sprinter who is neck and neck with an opponent with 10 meters left. With the strength that I possess, I feel like I’m Hercules.
I matured faster than all of my friends — and there will never be a time that I will give up. I may complain, I may refuse, and I may even cry about it, but I know I have to do what I have to do. I work hard at whatever I do — just for that man upstairs to smile down on me with the rays of the sun …and they feel so warm.
My drive cannot be stopped or even slowed down, because every obstacle has a way around it. Every day I become stronger from the weights physically, the books mentally, and life emotionally.
There is no limit to my strength and at the end of the day, I want to be known as the strongest.”
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