"From Dirt to Design" is the biography of Ron Bercume, a young man from the wild side of the tracks who achieved a rewarding career and a stable middle class life - not only despite his tough background, but by actively defining himself in opposition to it. Teenage angst rarely pays off so well.
"From Dirt to Design" follows Bercume from his childhood in California ("I was really tuned-in to what happened when the bills weren't being paid, such as being homeless My mom and my family were always breaking down It was the '80s, not far from L.A. everyone was on coke and meth"); to his youth in Florida, where he lived in 19 different places over six years, was "constantly harassed," and became a juvenile delinquent; through a stint in the desert with his father, the leader of a small cult ("Jesus Christ was an alien, too"); and eventually to Lake Placid, N.Y., where he found the positive influences and support that put his life on an entirely new track.
Politicians talk about "ladders of opportunity." This book shows the crucial importance of caring adults who help troubled kids get a foot on such a ladder in the first place and then show them how to get to the next rung - and then go far beyond that by, for example, renting a young Ron Bercume a car so he could visit a university like R.I.T. - the prestigious college he enrolled in with the help of New York's Higher Education Opportunity Program. It was Bercume's high school teachers who provided the young "dirt rocker" with the attention, inspiration, and opportunities he needed to rise above his background.
Life wasn't easy for Bercume after he matriculated at R.I.T., though - far from it - and "From Dirt to Design" sees him become a young parent, drop out of school and return to Lake Placid, have a second child after a whirlwind romance, slowly get his graphic design business off of the ground, experience heartbreak and other setbacks, and again and again work to make the best of a difficult situation.
The primary audience for this biography is disadvantaged teenagers. If this onetime "fat, smelly kid in thrift-store clothes" with an attitude that was "questionable at best" can earn a slice of the American dream, then they can, too. This book shows a flawed person who overcame daunting challenges through self-belief, hard work, and doing the right thing.
"From Dirt to Design" is on sale at The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, and at The Little Supermarket in Wilmington. It can also be purchased through amazon.com.
About the author
A native of Wilmington, and a high school friend of Bercume's, Tim Follos is a journalist who has written for the Washington Post Company's free daily tabloid, Express, as well as for the Onion, the Valley News, the Georgetown Voice, and numerous other publications. He is a former sports editor of the Lake Placid News and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. He currently labors as a humble scribe for Federal News Service, in Washington, D.C. "From Dirt to Design" is his first book.