School Is a Gift This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Most high school students view their education in a less-than-enthusiastic manner. We sometimes let ourselves believe that classes are intentionally made impossible to pass, teachers actually take pleasure in failing us, and homework is there for the sole purpose of torturing us. I now realize that this mindset is totally ridiculous. Two years ago, however, I completely agreed with it.

I was always a hard-working student. I completed homework on time, participated in class, and studied hard for tests and quizzes. But for years, I had absolutely no idea why I pushed myself. I suppose I just wanted to achieve temporary success – to receive that A and be done with it.

During sophomore year, however, my perspective completely changed. The San Francisco 49ers Foundation traveled to New Orleans to help with the continuing relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Hearing about this opportunity, I decided to go and help restore a local elementary school.

A friend and I spent time painting the school's cafeteria in an assortment of vivid colors.When we were finished, the room looked truly fantastic. At the end of the day, I felt accomplished, proud to have helped my community. However, I didn't dwell on the significance of this project. After all, I had done many similar rebuilding tasks.

Then, just as we were about to leave the school, I saw them: a group of children walking – or sprinting, rather – toward their newly refurbished school. The looks on their faces were priceless; it was as if they had just spotted an all-you-can-eat candy buffet. I distinctly remember thinking, They can't really be that excited about school, can they?

But they were. These children were ecstatic finally being able to return to a beautifully renovated school. It was then I realized how fortunate I was. Attending school is a privilege, not a punishment.

Now, I view school in a totally different way. I'm not saying I run home every day thrilled to begin hours of homework. I still occasionally complain about school, but whenever I am tempted to wallow in self-pity, I simply remember the excitement and ­eagerness of those children.

I continue to work hard in school, but now I do it because I want to make the most of the opportunities I have been given. I want to learn, to make something of myself, to become the best I can possibly be, and all this I learned from a group of 10-year-olds.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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