"Respect is huge": A profile of Simeon Washington
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 3:29pm
SIMEON WASHINGTON IS many things — graduating senior, starting point guard, and future Hoosier, to name a few — but he's also someone who really wants to skydive.
The thing is, he's afraid of heights.
That contradiction is something that attests to Washington's character; he is a firm believer in living life to the fullest and taking things as they come.
One thing that came his way in the 6th grade was an admission letter to Uni, and thus began his five years at the school. He shakes his head and laughs when remembering himself as a subbie.
"I was really naïve subbie year," he chuckles. "I was just goofy. I don't like to think of myself subbie year because there's too many stupid memories of me just being absolutely oblivious."
Simeon has a younger sister and an older brother, in addition to three older sisters, and he credits his family with helping him put things in perspective when he struggled with the transition to Uni.
“They’re real supportive of me; they’ve always had my back," he says. "[...] I hadn’t really been challenged in middle school, so when I started getting a bunch of homework that they couldn’t help me with, it was pretty hard. [...]"
"They were real supportive in not letting me get too down on myself. I think my parents have taught me [...] to learn my own limits, so I won’t work too hard on something in vain — so if I know that something isn’t going anywhere, I’ll stop for a little bit.”
Washington has taken much of what he's learned from his family to heart, and he doesn't hesitate when I ask whom he credits most with shaping who he is as a person.
"My dad, definitely," he answers. "I've learned so much from him. Just how to be, how to treat other people, how to expect to be treated, how to respect others. That's definitely a big thing. Respect is huge in my family. [And] just how to take what you're given and make the best of it."
Respect is something that Washington values highly, and it is something he thinks could be translated into everyday Uni dealings, especially into students' attitudes towards minorities.
"Among the students [...] sometimes, that kind of stuff can get a little out of hand," he says. "[...] Everyone assumes that everyone's cool with it, everyone knows that it's a joke, so they joke, but that doesn't stop some of the stuff from hurting. [...] But sometimes the jokes can and often do go too far.
"[...] Everyone knows that racism is not right, so they take that and they think, 'Okay, everyone knows this, so any joke about racism must be just a joke, no matter how offensive,' and then they go from there."
This atmosphere has played an important role in his five years at Uni.
"I had to learn what sort of stuff to say [and] what sort of stuff to not say to not come off as the 'stereotypical black kid' and get those jokes," he explains. "But at the same time I have to remember where I came from and be myself. [...] You don't want to lose yourself."
Washington believes that any change in this attitude will have to come from students themselves recognizing both that things said in jest are still damaging and when jokes have gone too far.
"That's how I see it: am I gonna be the stickler or am I just gonna roll with it?" he says. "[...] No one wants to kill everyone else's fun, but at the same time there's gotta be a point where you step up."
Washington believes this is important for and has an impact on everyone at Uni because there is much more to high school than the academic side of things; the social experience is hugely important too.
"It's the relationships that you have in high school — just in life in general — [that are] more important to me."
Thus, taking work and school so seriously that they are no longer fun is something that Washington avoids.
"There's a time to be serious but at the same time, you have to stop and just live a little," he says. "I think some people take school or take their work too seriously to the point that what they're doing just isn't fun anymore, and I think that's sad; I think that everyone needs to have fun. [...] That's the stuff that you'll remember later on down the line."
While he is looking forward to graduation and the responsibility, freedom, and opportunities he will have in college, Washington admits that he will miss many of the friendships he has found here during his high school career.
"Oftentimes I got to know them [friends] later than I wish I had, but that just happens," he says.
After graduation, Washington is attending Indiana University, where he plans to major in Unassigned Business and then perhaps follow his father's footsteps and start his own business.
Who knows? Maybe one day he'll even get around to taking that skydive.