This year’s senior assembly at Boynton Beach Community High was no different than previous years’ until a retiring teacher announced he was giving his car to a graduating senior.
“I’m sure it’s going to make a pretty good difference in his life,” Michael Cavanaugh, who teaches American government and economics, said this week after the announcement while sitting in his classroom.
Cavanaugh, 62, is giving his 2007 Honda Civic to Jacquez Champion, 19.
After the Friday assembly Cavanaugh took Champion to his car in the parking lot to introduce him to his new ride. Cavanaugh is still driving the car while the school year wraps up. He has a plan for the day he’ll turn the keys over: Cavanaugh will pick up Champion on June 1, they’ll drive to the clerk’s office to sign the title and then Cavanaugh will drive Champion home and say goodbye to his Honda. Cavanaugh’s wife will pick him up.
Cavanaugh had this surprise in the works for years. He knew he wanted to do something special when he retired but didn’t know with which student. By October, Cavanaugh had his mind set on Champion, who plans to study at Palm Beach State College.
“He is everything that teachers say epitomizes a good student: hard working, rarely missed school, kind,” Cavanaugh said. “There was just something about him. I just saw this kid. He did everything right. By October, he was the guy.”
Through the year Champion was saving money to buy a car. When he reached about $6,000, Cavanaugh told him to get to $10,000.
“I didn’t want him to buy it,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh is recommending Champion open an IRA with that money.
“So when he’s my age hopefully he’s sitting on a nice nest egg for himself,” Cavanaugh said.
As for Cavanaugh, he plans to stay active in his retirement, travel with his wife, take care of their grandchildren and hopes to find work in helping seniors who don’t have loved ones around.
Cavanaugh taught at Boynton High for 13 years and spent 35 years teaching in Palm Beach County.
Since news of Cavanaugh’s surprise has spread, he said the number of past students who have reached out to him is “amazing.”
The lesson in all this?
“There’s so many kids like him that are great kids. If somebody gives them a chance,” Cavanaugh said. “I just think it’d be nice if other people helped kids out.”