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Writer takes another shot at high school

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Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009
 

A silver Range Rover pulled into the parking lot of Trinity Christian School this morning, and a mother reached across the front seat to hug her son on the first day of class.

Thus began Todd Gallagher's second crack at high school. The 33-year-old Greensburg native is attempting to complete a senior semester at the Forest Hills school as part of a project called "Todd vs. High School," after which he plans to write a book and produce a documentary designed to advise students how to survive school.

"I don't think it's going to be super easy. I had a hard enough time the first time around," said Gallagher, who graduate from Greensburg Central Catholic with a 1.7 grade-point average after being kicked out of two other schools. "It's a miracle I graduated at all."

His goal this time: straight As.

"I think it will be interesting to see how students react and whether he can pull off that 4.0 (GPA)," said Melissa Swearingen, 27, a second-grade teacher who directed Gallagher to homeroom.

There he was greeted by Robbie Schmidtberger, a second-year religious education teacher who was in third grade when Gallagher started his first senior year.

Gallagher has enjoyed a career as a writer for ESPN, published the book "Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan" in 2007 and coached the New Hampshire Thunder Loons of the U.S. Basketball League when he was just 21.

Wearing a black golf shirt, khaki shorts and running shoes, Gallagher admitted he was nervous as he stood outside while other students mingled.

"It's getting more and more nerve-racking by the second," he said.

Gallagher will be treated like any other student, Principal Dale McLane said.

"He's going to be a regular student," said McLane, noting Gallagher paid his $3,300 tuition and had his parents fill out the necessary paperwork.

Gallagher already notified McLane that it might be necessary to miss a few days for work obligations in Los Angeles, where he lived before moving back into his parents' house in Shadyside for this project.

"Your mother has to send a note for those days," McLane told him.

Gallagher, who's older than many of the Trinity teachers, began training with the soccer team last week, and plans to audition for the school play -- "If I'm good enough to do it" -- and join the chess club, even though he's never played. His course-load includes Spanish, physics, rhetoric and British literature.

"The weird part is I actually feel like a student," Gallagher said just before the first bell rang.

Lunch might prove to be the biggest challenge of the day. The brown bag tucked inside his locker contained only almonds and oranges, packed by his mother.

"I don't know if I can trade that for much," Gallagher said. "It's been a while for her, too."

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