They say it’s a sad day when you don’t learn something and Mark Wahlberg certainly took this to heart. The rapper-turned-actor’s bad boy past is hardly a secret, as before he became a pants-dropping musical sensation and movie star he lived a rough life in Southie. Growing up in the impoverished neighbourhood in Boston, Wahlberg became addicted to drugs and ended up serving time for a racially-fuelled assault that left a man blind. It seems unlikely that anyone could recover from such a past, but Wahlberg has managed to turn his life around, speaking about his troubled youth and attempting to right the wrongs he committed through philanthropy. Yet through all this, one thing was missing: his high school diploma.
Wahlberg has no shortage of accolades and awards, but in an essay for The Huffington Post he writes candidly that finally getting his degree is his biggest accomplishment. After dropping out in grade nine, some 28 years later the 42-year-old decided to hit the books again. Taking online courses for over a year, he carved out time in his busy schedule, saying: “I’ve been taking classes and studying any chance I could get – on the set, traveling for work and at home.”
Though he says that growing up his “circumstances were not unlike millions of other teens today, who live in tough working class neighborhoods surrounded by drugs, violence and crime” he does recognize how lucky he’s been in life. Not only to have made it in Hollywood, but to have been able to study online, which allowed him to finally get his degree. This access to learning is what inspired him to write the essay, saying “investment in education is a no-brainer” and notes it’s crucial in “supporting our economic recovery.”
Going back to school later on in life often isn’t celebrated, as it’s seen as admitting some kind of past failing. But as Wahlberg’s story highlights, not all lives take the same path, nor should they. What matters is a commitment to learning at all ages and supporting those to attain their educational goals, at any age.