Prompts Burton Teen to Leave 'Wrong Crowd' Behind
Rickey Hampton, Lansing State Journal, October 11, 2005
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BURTON - Aaron
Brank can remember only parts of the evening last January.
First, there was the drinking at a friend's house. Then there
was the beating.
The Atherton High School student was left unconscious in the
snow, his face badly bruised, a fracture under one eye and a
tooth missing. Aaron, now 15, was in a coma for 30 hours.
It may seem like a cliche, but the incident was a wake-up call
for the teen. It wasn't the first time he and his friends
spiraled out of control from drinking. But this time, Aaron
resolved to change.
"I knew immediately that I didn't want to live like that
anymore," he said.
"One of the (attackers) actually called me up in the hospital to
apologize, but I started breaking down and crying.
"I'm thinking, these guys aren't my friends."
There was justice. Aaron's attackers - who were among the people
with whom he was drinking - were punished. One actually did jail
time, and the others were put on probation.
What happened to Aaron is every parent's nightmare. Most parents
try to raise their children as best they can. They try to
instill character, value and morals. However, in the end, all
parents can hope and pray is that the kids will make wise
choices. Aaron didn't at first.
"When I got to high school, I started hanging with the wrong
crowd," he explained.
"They seemed cool, and we were having a lot of fun, and I wanted
to be part of their group.
"We were drinking and getting high, and my grades started going
down and down.
"At the time this happened, I was flunking everything. My best
grade was a D-minus in choir.
"I decided when I was lying in the hospital that I wasn't going
back that way again. I've had enough. I haven't drank or gotten
high since that night. Just the smell of (alcohol) makes me sick
Aaron's parents have moved to Nashville, Tenn., and he has moved
in with his grandparents, Rickey and Monica Brank. They've
provided him with support and stability.
He has improved his grades. During the summer, he worked a
part-time job. He has a bright future as a football player.
Physically, Aaron is a strapping youngster, the product of hours
in the weight room.
The missing tooth, noticeable when he smiles, is the only
physical reminder of his beating. Despite having the insurance
to get it replaced, he hasn't.
"It doesn't bother me," he said. "I'm not self-conscious about
it at all."
It's almost as if it is a reminder.
The change in Aaron's attitude has been startling, according to
Atherton school staffers.
"I was his football coach in the eighth grade, and he was a
discipline problem. I actually kicked him off the team," teacher
Jason Garza said.
"But since the night the young men jumped him, he has really
turned himself around. I'm really proud of him.
"I think he can do a lot. He is a smart kid, a very smart kid."
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