RISING HIGH: Aristacus Foster underwent a 12-month crash course of summer and night classes in a addition to his senior year class load to graduate high school on time.Â Heâ€™ll head to Jackson State in the fall with nearly 18 college credits earned as a result.
Photo by Evan Barnes for Sentinel
After nearly failing first three years, he graduates with 3.0 GPA and a football scholarshipIt was exactly a year ago that Aristacus Forster was at a crossroads at Verbum Dei High School. The then junior was struggling with his academics and faced the real possibility of not graduating.He would have to make up classes in the summer but little did he know how much work he'd have to put over the next 12 months. Along with his parents, he shuttled across Los Angeles to different community colleges while balancing football practice and his regular schoolwork.The hard work paid off as Forster, whose grade point average had dipped below 2.0, graduated on June 11 with a 3.0 GPA (2.6 when adjusted to NCAA standards) and will attend Jackson State University on a football scholarship. "I've come a long way," he said, relieved.It was still a shock a week later as he sat in the school College Guidance office with his parents, Egerton and Julie, to pick up his transcripts before heading to Mississippi for summer school. The 18-year-old reflected on how he worked in the office and was surrounded by banners of colleges that his peers attended."I'm around all this college stuff in this environment so I knew it was an option and that kept me motivated."It was that motivation that pushed him to attend summer school and night courses at five different community colleges and adult schools. One day, he'd be at Los Angeles Wilson Adult School and L.A. Southwest College, the next he'd be at the Maxine Waters Preparatory Center in Compton and Los Angeles Trade Tech.All of this was in addition to 2-3 hours of football practice during the summer and the regular course load of his senior year.Frank Key, the director of the College Guidance center, admitted that the load was daunting for one student to handle."There were times we sat and worked the schedule and I said, this is going to be near impossible," Key said.The family stuck with the plan and it's no surprise considering how much education is valued in the Forster house. Egerton had earned two degrees from Devry Institute and Julie earned her undergraduate degree at Pepperdine University and graduate degree at Cal State University Long Beach."We'd just thought it'd be natural [for him to succeed]," Julie Forster said, adding that the transition from public school to high school might have added to his struggles.On average, Aristacus would busy 15 to 16 hours a day. Not to mention having to learn a game that he only picked up as a freshman, with no football experience. It was a crash course in time management but he already had a plan for it."I had just had to take it step by step and it became easier for me to look at it that way," he said.After playing junior varsity, he was academically ineligible to compete his sophomore and junior years. But then-head coach Rico Martin encouraged Forster to come out and knowing his situation, he provided an environment where he could continue his studies."He said 'I'm not giving up on you and we're all here for you' and I decided to do it," Forster said.It was a decision he wasn't sure about because he wanted to focus on his grades but after he committed to it, his parents fell in line after a brief hesitation."[I believed] it would inspire him to do what he needed to do become eligible," Egerton Forster said.As he developed into a 6"3, 290 lbs. offensive lineman that received offers from Washington and Arizona State, his teammates helped tutor him while coaches offered encouragement throughout the day. When he settled on Jackson State, it was a proud moment but not as happy as he felt when he heard his name called on the stage last week to receive his diploma."People assumed I was just a football player with a scholarship but they had no idea what it took to get it. The classes I took, the sacrifices I made, staying disciplined and not giving up--I've come a long way."Not only does he have his diploma but after summer school, he'll enter the fall semester with at least 18 units towards his college degree. He's also expected to compete for the starting job at right tackle for the Tigers."Going to college now, he's ready for anything. Any other pressure that he'll face, he's been there and he can handle it." Egerton Forster said.The family credited the environment at Verbum Dei for, in Julie Forster's words, seeing "something in him that we always knew was there" and providing the guidance to make it work."We threw him in a situation where he had no other distractions and he made it work," Key said, also returning the favor by credited the parents for a level of involvement he had never seen before.Now there's a Jackson State banner hanging in the counseling office--a reminder of not just where Forster is headed but the almost Herculean journey it took to get him there.