Life After Lee

GSU2Allison Webb parked on the side of Charles Allen Drive as she had done dozens of times before.

But this time it took her five minutes to talk herself out of the car. The familiarity of this Midtown neighborhood was bittersweet. Lee had lived in a ground-floor apartment just down the road. Together they had shopped at Trader Joe’s and eaten at Woody’s CheeseSteaks, snapshot memories of her son that could one moment comfort her and the next send her spiraling into despair.

Crossing the street to the campus of Henry W. Grady High School was especially surreal. It was 11 a.m. on a Thursday in mid-December, and the classrooms were bright and bustling. As Webb passed each window, she could imagine Lee sitting at his desk, cutting up with friends, flirting with the girls. Flashing that perfect smile. She approached the old brick entrance, climbed the stairs, and stopped before the heavy gray doors. She pressed the intercom button and told the voice in the box her name and that she was there to see the counselors. As she waited to be buzzed in, Webb remembered the countless times she had stood in that very spot holding the lunch or the book that Lee had forgotten. More than once, she had paced there, empty-handed, worried, wondering what he had done to get sent to the office this time.

This time, Webb was here to help other kids in trouble. She had an appointment to speak with the faculty about the Lee Project, a non-profit initiative that partnered with the Georgia State College of Arts and Sciences to provide scholarships to high school students who’ve dealt with tragedy or extraordinary adversity.

The program began as a way for Webb to memorialize her son’s life. It became a reason for her to go on with her own.

It’s hard to remember her life before Lee.

She was 22, a student at Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina, when she got pregnant. She and Lee’s father split when Lee was 11 weeks old. Webb got a job at a dry cleaner. She left college, but promised herself she would go back once Lee graduated high school.

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