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The secret life of Lynette Lush

Sarah Lipo

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It’s 7:32 AM on a frigid February morning as I pound up the second floor main staircase. I am hoping to get in a few minutes of math cramming in the tutoring center, without being tardy to first period. As I reach the top of the slippery staircase, I compose myself before trudging into the Tutoring Center.  I dutifully scan my ID and suppress a yawn, and as I look up, I am greeted with a warm smile from the woman behind the desk.

Behind that warm smile lies a complicated past, one Lyneice Lush, the Tutoring Center Monitor, says has allowed her “to love me…expand(ing) my mind, body and spirit.”

If you talked to Lush in high school, she might have told you basketball was her passion. Starting in fourth grade, she  “love(d) the concept, competition, teamwork, (and) the freedom of bring(ing) yourself to the table.”  An engaged and thriving player at Proviso West, she was able to acquire a full-ride to Western Illinois to play “ball.”

The excitement of her new adventure slowly wore off as the stress, pressure, and overwhelming nature of life in college took over. “My parents were so proud of me going off to school. I couldn’t share, I felt like I would let them down.”

When Thanksgiving break of her sophomore year rolled around, Lush had had enough. She could dribble, pass, and make three-pointers with perfection. But, she had not learned the skill of handling her own emotions, and finding out who she truly was. “I was so tired, and I couldn’t take it. So I quit.”

Leaving school was no easy decision — “I had to go through the stages of walking away from school…,” she said — but quitting school did not equate failure. As the door to college and playing basketball closed, others began to open. “I had the opportunity at a charter school — something totally different…I ended up being a dean’s assistant.”

Lush looks back on this time as a pivotal period in her life. “That’s when I got a chance to really understand,” she said. “I had had trouble expressing myself and being productive with it.

“For me, handling kids who got kicked out of class…that was key. I was teaching and learning at the same time.”

The charter school student’s showed Lush dysfunction and how to deal with it. After six years, her position closed, and she jumped at the chance to give back to Proviso West. As she moved toward her next chapter, Proviso offered a plethora of lessons Lush still uses today.

There, Lush taught girl’s basketball and boy’s volleyball. “Proviso was my beginning. I got confidence to show students who I am in the best way I could.”

Finding herself was the key to helping others. She does not want anyone to feel trapped by their inability to be themselves and find their unique voice. “Kids get stuck in (certain) boxes. What if they get stuck?” She says, “I can’t let another kid go through this, because I’ve already been through it.”

As of now, a documentary and book based on her experiences is in process. She knows that few talk “about the social emotional struggles athletes face,” although these conversations are central for growth. “Emotions are a huge part of education – how you feel is going to dictate what you get out of education.”

Lush has found music is a niche she can use to express herself and connect with others. She grew up bouncing to the beat of her father’s band, and remembers waking up to her parents gliding across the kitchen floor, the music drifting throughout the house, energizing her for the day. She said she believes music is another way to communicate with others, since “Music is always a safe space for people.”

Through music, writing, and connecting with students, Lush found herself. She is grateful for her students every day, because she knows “they help me become my best self.”

Jason Dennis, the Vice Principal at OPRFHS, would go as far as saying , “Ms. Lush is the heart of the tutoring center. She is welcoming, full of energy, thoughtful, and always working to support the students.”

So it seems as Lush found herself through obstacles she overcame and people she met. But, she also breathes life into the students she interacts with daily, having a “dynamic” personality that creates a “master at managing a large space filled with many personalities and differing priorities,” says Dennis.

Emotions are a key part of living – whether individuals spend their time stringing together metaphors for Spoken Word, sprinting across the finish line at a track meet, or breaking it down on the dance floor, they must know themselves. Through it all, Lush says, ““Experiencing pain makes you reflect on the wholeness of yourself.”

So as the two-minute bell rings, and I stride top-speed out of the Tutoring Center, the guaranteed well wishes I receive from Lush bring to mind what senior Mia Petrosino cites as “positive vibes.” I am ready to begin my day.

After all, Lush concludes that overcoming obstacles and finding one’s self may be the key to “Getting the best out of this journey we call high school.”

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The secret life of Lynette Lush