Angelique: a success story 

She was a wild girl. Abandoned first by her father and then by her mother in Illinois, she grew up hard. The rage that simmered inside was satiated only when her ever-ready fists thumped against those who glanced at her the wrong way or dared cross her.

He was worse. In Alabama, he tried to stab his high school principal with an ice pick.

Somehow by chance or whim or perhaps by a grinning God standing in front of a "This Could Be Interesting" dartboard the two were tossed together in Colorado Springs, in the hallways of Sierra High School.

For both, it was a lucky day.

Her name is Angelique. She's 19 now, tall and pretty with chestnut eyes. For most of her teen years, she lied and brawled and was voted Least Likely to Succeed. When she was 12, she finished a distant second to drugs on her mother's list of favorite things.

With no warning, the mother moved 45 miles away from their Alton, Ill., home. She took her son, four years older than Angelique. He was also an addict.

She did not take her daughter.

"She didn't even bother to tell me," Angelique says. "They just moved."

Angelique's life became a series of brief stays at the homes of friends. She fought off attempted sexual assaults from women's boyfriends and husbands. Drug addicts constantly lurked. Her life was frightening. School was an afterthought. Four years ago, her mother moved to Colorado Springs. The family Angelique was living with forced the 14-year-old to follow.

Her mom rejected her again. Angelique's life fighting, sleeping on the couches of friends resumed.

More than three decades earlier, Woody Longmire had lived a similar, perhaps even crazier, life. One of 10 kids raised by a single mother north of Mobile, Ala., Longmire answered to no one. In 1969, his anger crested when he charged at his principal with an ice pick.

When his class graduated, he was in prison.

"My mother told me I'd be dead before I was 21," he says.

When he got out, he joined the Army. A few people began to encourage him. They told him he was bright. Told him he could succeed. He believed them. He got his high school GED. He went to Central Texas College and graduated.

Today, the same Woody Longmire who tried to stab his high school principal has five college degrees, including two master's degrees. He's a business teacher at Sierra High and at Pikes Peak Community College.

Last summer, before Angelique's senior year at Sierra, Longmire saw her in a convenience-store parking lot. He knew of her lousy life, and stopped to ask how she was doing. He also asked her to enroll in his Sierra class for at-risk kids. She did. She succeeded. The grades in her other classes began to rise, too.

"He told me over and over I could do it, that I could make something of myself," she says. Then, sitting in her small apartment east of downtown it came with help from Urban Peak Colorado Springs, a nonprofit group that helps put teens like Angelique on a steady path her voice trails off.

"Mr. Longmire cared," she whispers.

She's now a student at PPCC and wants to be a physical therapist. She was also chosen by the school to be a recruiter, encouraging high school students including some, like her, who have seen the bleakest parts of life to give college a try.

A few weeks ago, Longmire took a Sierra class on a tour of the college. As his young students settled into their seats, the classroom door opened. With her head high, Angelique walked in, looked at the kids and talked of the wonders of college.

And the teacher and his student hugged.

"It made me cry," says Longmire, a tough guy who probably shouldn't put away his handkerchief.

"I didn't have a chance that day to say much to him," Angelique says. "So now I have to go tell him. He did so much for me. And I don't think he knows."

Listen to Rich Tosches at 8 a.m. Thursdays on the Darren and Koba Show on MY99.9. Reach him at rangerrich@csindy.com.


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