Always hope. | Teen Ink

Always hope.

May 18, 2020
By Anonymous

As I stared out the window while sitting in my tiny second-grade desk, I heard loud, intimidating heels walking down the hallway. The fast-paced steps were becoming deafening. Suddenly, they stopped. I was knocked out of my daydream by a tall brunette woman that everyone called Mrs. Zdrojewski. She tapped on my shoulder, and as I turned around, my heart sank. I knew that the only reason one would see Mrs. Zdrojewski was if he/she were in trouble. At that moment, I ran a quick scan of all my memories to try to determine what I did wrong. As she motioned for me to stand up and follow her, I noticed all my peers looking at me. I was nervous, scared, anxious. I didn't know what I did or what was coming next. When exiting the room and leaving behind all 44 eyes that made sure I left, I asked Mrs. Zdrojewski what this was all about. She looked at me and saw the distress my body was giving off; she replied, “It's nothing bad.”  The weight disappeared from my body as I walked with her down the narrow brick hallways. When we approached the door of no return (the principal's office), I was nervous about who I’d meet on the other side. The door opened and I saw my principle sitting there working on her computer. Her eyes glanced up and a smile appeared across her face. I sat down and I talked and talked and talked. The conversation started with them telling me that I wasn’t like the other students, as I required more one-on-one attention. I still didn't quite understand what they were trying to coerce me into. They told me I would be joining the CMC. A three-letter acronym that would change my learning for the next 10 years, or so I thought. 

From that point on, school wasn't the same. There was no more math class, no more English, no more independence. I never knew why they wouldn’t leave me alone and let me talk to my friends. I never knew why they would watch me in class. As the years passed, my knowledge of the CMC became clearer to me. I was stuck in this place no matter how hard I tried to run away from it. In realizing my defeat, I decided to absorb it; take in what I could so that, maybe one day, I could walk away from this unnecessary help.

 I met new students, people that I notice a mile away. We spent hours, days, months and years together. Some left the CMC, but I wasn’t so lucky. I was there during the entire elementary experience. The transition from the elementary CMC to the middle school CMC was surprisingly easy. 

Before middle school, classes were a struggle. Report cards with A’s and B’s were unheard of, and if I had more than two, something was wrong with the grade book. The difference between elementary CMC and middle school CMC was the teacher. I met someone new, someone, that would change how I looked at life and school. His name was Mr. Mattson. Mr. Mattson isn't just a teacher; he's a parent, friend, and someone I looked up to when it came to success. He taught me so much, and it wasn’t always regarding school work. He talked to me about life, the real world and what it had in store for me. He told me that being in the CMC shouldn't be a crutch or affect how I live my life. 

I took that into consideration and soon after, school became much clearer. My grades were the best they’d ever been; A’s and B’s, and not just one or two. My teachers started commenting on report cards “pleasure to have in class” instead of “needs to pay attention”. 

When I left my small-town middle school, Stone Bank, I made my way to the big high school, Arrowhead Union High School. From then on, my “learning disability” gradually faded away. Freshman year, I was in a program called CASS. Early on, I knew this program wasn't for me. The only reason I was in it was that I still had an IEP. All the classes were easy, and there was never any homework. I felt like I wasn't going to gain anything from taking the easy road to graduation. Sophomore year, I left CASS. My parents were hesitant about the whole idea because of the unknown, but after many convincing and valid points, my parents told me I could leave the program but keep my IEP. 

In the first semester of my sophomore year without the CASS program, I proved to everyone, not just my parents, that I could do it. I maintained A’s and B’s and nothing lower than a C. My parents and teachers were surprised but encouraging. Now, I never thought I would be able to get rid of my IEP, but when my parents and counselor sat me down and asked if I would like to get rid of it, my initial response was “NO!”. My whole academic career leading up to this point, I’d always had someone sitting right next to me to make sure I didn't fail. I didn’t know if I could do this by myself; I was scared. When thinking about dropping my IEP, the thought of Mr. Mattson popped into my head. He pushed me to do everything on my own and to be more independent so that when this day arrived, I would be ready. He knew even before I did that this would eventually be my way out. My final answer was “yes”. 

In the second semester, I was free and on my own. There were two ways this could play out in my head. Either I pass or I fail; I took option A. That year, my GPA was the highest it has ever been. I learned how to learn on my own and develop learning strategies, something that I was held back from doing in the past. Junior year, I told my parents I plan to go to college. They told me they would support me no matter what. That same year, I earned an Achievement of Academic Excellence and was featured in our school's Literary Magazine. I kept my grades up, balanced a job and a social life; three priorities I once believed I’d have to sacrifice one for the other. 

I did something I never imagined accomplishing. Second grade me thought that I would never be able to be like the other kids; Second grade me was wrong. What I should've thought was “When I get out of here, I want to do something big.” The prompt asked what are my biggest academic achievements, and to that, I would reply, "My whole academic career is my achievement".

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