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The Highs and Lows of My Education
I wanted to write my story and share my struggles on paper. I've been battling with the scarring stories discussed in my story, and I needed to share them and hopefully serve as an inspiration for other people who struggled as I did.
Throughout my life, education was deeply valued in my family. Standards were always held very high. My brother and I understood that receiving all A’s for each report card was expected. If you slipped and found yourself with a B or C and your grades didn’t improve, everything that could serve as a distraction was confiscated until the grade showed improvement. There was little time for hanging out with friends, talking on the phone, and playing games when your grades weren’t where they needed to be. Fortunately, this only happened a couple of times with my brother, and never for me, so we still had our free time aside from all the school work.
In Kindergatden, I was invited into the Gifted and Talented Program (G.T.). This program allowed me and two other students to leave class for forty five to fifty minutes and work on higher level assignments in another class. I stayed in this program throughout all of my elementary school years. Each year, the number of participants increased, along with the difficulty level of the work (Yes, shapes and colors become way more difficult, I promise).
In Intermediate School, I remained in the gifted classes, but they weren’t so secluded from the rest of the student body. Anyone could sign up to be in a gifted class, you didn’t need a pre-requisite. This was a nice breath of fresh air to me. I was able to meet new friends and branch out. Not only were my classes bigger, but I wasn’t exchanging ideas with the same kids I had been for the past couple years. Diversity was now introduced, and the gifted students weren’t so different anymore. Being in gifted classes means you are of high educational potential, but it can isolate you from the social experience public schools have to offer.
In Middle School, my involvement in G.T. classes continued. I took gifted English and Social Studies, but for Math and Science, I tried out for the Integrated Math and Science Program (IMS). I was asked to write an essay and participate in an integrated project with a couple of other students; like a tryout of sorts. I was accepted! Instead of being in a forty five minute math and science class, we remained in the same classroom for an hour and a half; only stopping to transition from math to science and vice versa. This allowed the teachers to also integrate their lessons, which introduced the idea that subjects aren’t separate, they intertwine perpetually. Also, we took two sciences at a time. I was taking the science the rest of my grade level was taking in parallel with the science of the grade above me. I did this for my seventh grade year, and in eighth grade, I took Biology; a freshman Science. Taking classes of higher levels were intimidating, but the work was just right for me.
IMS was still provided in high school, but the science I would take as a freshman would’ve been Physics. First of all, Physics was only offered during my concert band class. Second of all, why would I give up music for a class that I would take in the future years of high school? Music is very important to me, and the high school provided intense music that spoke. It was the class I looked forward to the most going into high school. Therefore, it made sense to me to withdraw from the program. Instead, I enrolled in honors level courses for my first two years, and currently (as a junior), I’m enrolled in an AP English course. Believe me, I wasn’t missing out on the vigorous work.
I think that IMS was a great way to get accustomed to high school and college level education, but it wasn’t essential. Classes that didn’t have the IMS label still delivered similar education. I remember being challenged even more in my honors classes in high school than IMS back at the middle school. Now this may be because I’m participating in higher level thinking… but we’ll make it work anyway.
Growing up, I earned a lot of educational awards. I always had A’s and B’s on my report cards and interims, and I was (and still am) involved in tutoring and Honors Societies. Also, when I was in Intermediate school, I won the Daughters of American Revolution award (DAR) (This was a very high honor; I even received a plaque with my name on it and a medal in a fancy case). I took advantage of my free time in school to finish homework and I took advantage of extra credit when available. When I would go on vacation or attend a soccer tournament, I would work out an agreement with my teacher so I could get finish my work early or bring it with me on the trip. For example, I went on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean and Disney World in my eighth grade year and I was reading “The Merchant of Venice” in English class. The teacher told me that by the time I would return to school, the class would’ve finished the book and be preparing for the test (Magic Kingdom, private beach tours in the Bahamas, and private island getaways seemed way more intriguing than a 16th century Shakespearian story about a merchant in Venice). So, I took the book with me to the Bahamas and read in the sand and Caribbean sun.
Talking about my education growing up, many people think things came easily to me and I just got good opportunity after good opportunity. And for most of it, this was true. School was never really that much of a challenge for me until this year, but, I was facing so much more outside of school that people could imagine. For me, school was starting to become an escape from my personal life.
I have been involved in travel soccer since the age of five. The hours dedicated to games and practices were tallying up so much, that I could fill the empire state building with them. In the fall of my seventh and eighth grade years, I played volleyball for the school as well. Practice for volleyball was for two hours everyday after school. Also, in the spring of those years and my freshman year, I played soccer for the school too. Sports was and is my lifestyle. But, “I am a student athlete, not an athletic student”. I had to make social and time sacrifices to keep up with my academics.
Aside from my hobbies, my parents were going through a divorce in 2012. Anger, sorrow, and frustration boiled in me over the next few years and it was nearly impossible to continue to keep up with school and athletics. Through this divorce, going on a run, completing a workout, or playing soccer was my distraction from the depression and emotional exhaustion. Then, in 2014, I tore my ACL and meniscus in my right knee. This would require surgery and 9 months of no soccer. Being a highly active and competitive athlete, this was devastating news to me, my friends, and my family. Without my ability to walk, I struggled to find an alternative to deal with the divorce. However, in this time, I was able “to do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Time would heal the problems I encountered, and they did. Unfortunately, you don’t think about that in the moment. Regardless I knew that my education was my top priority. In life, things happen, but how you handle them, that shows your true character. I understood that God would never put anything in my life that I couldn’t handle. I just needed to stay faithful to Him. Regardless of the situations at home, I would be focused on my education and on loving my friends and family. Everything I do now, sets up my future. If I want to flourish in my future, I need to prosper now. Hard work and dedication are needed and will pay off when I am doing the thing I love most.