By Lex Cornell
Failure. That’s what I’ve heard my whole life, even when I gave it my all. When I started high school, I tried to give my all in my classes. It never felt like I could get ahead, particularly when I struggled in English class. I couldn’t grasp the concepts of my classes and my grades started to suffer. After hearing time and time again that I was a failure, I began to give up on school. I became the failure everyone said I was. By my sophomore year, I was several credits behind my peers, now that I no longer cared for how I did or had a plan for my future. Mid-year of my sophomore year, my life got flipped upside down. When CPS was in my life, I was removed from my household and moved in with my father’s ex-finance. Many changes happened during that time. I was out of school for a whole month until she could get my documents for me to go into high school.
When it was all settled, I started up school again at East. It was a change from my old school. I got used to having time to do my assignments. The teachers here wouldn’t let me get behind. Changes from 8, 42-minute classes to 5, 72-minute classes were a hard adjustment. I wasn’t used to being able to finish my work. I was finishing my work. I was getting better grades and understanding what I was learning. I was two weeks into my new way of school when Covid hit. I tried my best with the online classes, but sometimes they didn’t work. Teachers were still trying to find ways to help their students. At the end of my sophomore year, I don’t think I did as well as I could have. I strived to do better through my junior and senior years.
Even with a global pandemic, I pushed forward and achieved high grades throughout my whole junior year. I’m a senior now. I’ve been ambitious. I’m taking multiple classes for my future career in Culinary Arts. I write for the school newspaper, and I have the highest grades out of all my years in high school so far. I’m ready for my next big step in life. I know that the changes from high school to college will be one of the most life-changing events to happen to me, I know that means there’s going to be more changes and things will be different from high school but, because of my situation, I believe I will be able to adapt to college life.
By Ella French
“Let's all meet in the playroom for a family meeting,” yelled my mother up the stairs, her voice shaky. We all gathered into the playroom where my mom was sitting, signs of worry written across her face. “Your father is sick,'' she said, her voice serious and stern, “you probably won't be able to see him for a little while.” I was younger at the time, I was naive, vulnerable. I was unaware of how severe his sickness was, and would turn out to be.
My parents went their separate ways when I was a young child, my father was living about 20 minutes away in Charlotte by Lake Ontario. When I was in fourth grade, on the surface, he was seemingly in perfect health, until one day, at his machine shop where he works, he collapsed, tools clattering on the floor, and then he began to have a seizure. He never had a seizure previous to this, so it was new to us. He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, and immediately sent to the Emergency Room. The doctors and nurses ran test after test after test on him. What they found would be a shock to all of us.
The test results revealed that my father had blood clots in his brain. The doctors had no clue where they came from, having no previous signs of blood clots anywhere in his body. We found out that he had to undergo brain surgery. My mom took us to Strong Hospital to visit him, to say our goodbyes. At the time, I thought it was over, I thought he wouldn’t make it. The next day, he went into surgery, we had chocolate cream pie -- his favorite -- to honor him, to give him strength. My father survived the surgery, and everything was going great until something happened. I, I was never told what specifically happened due to the graphic nature and how young I was. He was immediately taken back into surgery. He also survived this surgery, and everything remained stable. He was in the hospital for a few weeks, maybe even a month. I was too young to know how durations of time felt, but it felt like an eternity for me.
My dad is still alive now. Even though his brain is blood clot free, he still has long lasting negative effects from the seizure and clots. His back is broken in many spots due to the seizure, and it is unable to heal. I have some long lasting effects as well, both positive and negative. On the positive side, I have learned to not take life for granted. I have learned to appreciate those around me while they are still here, to spend time with them. I have learned that we have no clue how long we have to live, and that I should make the most out of my time. On the negative side, I live in fear. I live in fear that the blood clots will come back. I worry that they will pop up in my brothers or me, and our end result won't be as lucky.
My dad's medical issue was a huge turning point in my life. It made me reflect on myself, my past, and think about my future. It made me thankful for what I have, the life that I have, and thankful for my health. It made me appreciate the people that I have around me, and not take them for granted. That family meeting in the playroom changed my life.
By Aryana St. Marthe
When I think about setbacks I think about the people I'm around because they are usually the ones I have to get away from. This was and still is a challenge for me because I always tend to fall with the wrong crowd and be the only one in the group that's actually passing. Trying to find the right people for me in high school is harder than I thought it would be because looking for people that have the same mindset as me is a real struggle. My mindset is more focused on school and college and my friends are focused on boys and other things that I don't really care for. Losing close friends is something I didn’t think about until now because I always thought all of my friends are all going to graduate at the same time, we’re all going to the same college and we’re all still going to be friends. I soon started to realize that this future I saw was never going to happen with the people that I’m hanging around.
Hanging around people that did nothing but make my brain hurt is not very healthy for me because I stress myself out over things that I can't control. When they tell me a story about drama that’s happening or when they stop caring for school it stresses me out because I wish I can make them do whatever they need to do so we can all graduate together but, it’s hard to help someone when they don’t want to helped. When my friends aren’t doing what they need to do, I feel as if it’s up to me to make sure they do what they need to. I need to start realizing that that is not my job and they have to do this by themselves and I can only just sit there.
Over this past year, I was the most stressed because I was losing friends and my closest friend was going through a lot and all that was stressing me out to the point where I wasn’t eating and being very depressed. My friend basically left and I felt like I didn't know what to do next. I was so hurt at the fact that she just left without talking about it to me or just thinking, she just left. At some point I felt kind of selfish because I wanted her to stay but with everything that she was going through she needed to leave and I had to support her. I tried to find a way to solve the problem because I didn’t want to feel down and in a funk because of this and because the ways I tried to problem solve didn’t work very well. So, I tried to be active to get my mind off it. I went on walks with my other friends and took up a new hobby of cooking. My new hobbies were mostly successful but I was still hurt.
I consider this a setback because I’m too busy stressing about my friends not coming to school and not passing instead worrying about myself and if I’m going to get my work done fast enough to get in on time to pass. I can’t focus on someone else and myself all at the same time, doing that puts too much pressure on me and it puts too much on my mind. As I attend college, I would make it a personal goal to try to find some friends that help me calm my mind instead of making it crazy. From this experience, I learned that you have to be around people that won’t drag you down and don’t have to stress about them all the time. I need to start being around people that pick me up and have the same values as me. I find friends that I can talk to about college, who encourage me, who will be at school every day and hopefully they care about them self to try to graduate and get good grades. These people are hard to find, that's why I keep making friends so I can find “the right ones.”
By Dayshaun Clark
Picking up a new sport isn't easy and most definitely can be frustrating and unmotivating. It all started when my brother asked me if I wanted to go to lacrosse practice with him since I was free that weekend and had no plans. I said, “Sure why not, I might like it.” So we got ready and headed to 33school to catch the RTS bus to SOTA with a few friends. When we all got there I met the coach and he gave me the equipment needed to practice with everyone so I can get a feel of what it's like. I had my brother try to explain to me how to catch, throw, and how to cradle the stick.
After we got done conditioning, Coach London broke up everyone into different groups based on their skill level and since I was new I was with the other kids who didn't have too much experience. The drill was when he rolled the ball and two people would go and fight for the ground ball. The point of the drill was to box the other person out and to protect your stick. So when it became my turn I was going up with a bigger kids so I knew I can just use my speed and get by him but I was new to the sport so I struggled picking the ball up so when the other kids got to me he pushed me in the back with the stick (which is a flag) and made me mad because that wasn't the point of the drill and it wasn't needed so Coach London told me to run it back with the same kid and the same thing happened again but this time when he pushed me he got the ball so he won that rep (a rep is how many times you do the drill). I was heated for real this time and threw the stick and that's when Coach London walked over to me picked my stick up and put it in my chest and we had a little talk about putting that anger into laying someone out (laying someone out is running someone over and they fall on the ground). When it was my turn again I was with a random kid and to be honest I didn't go for the ball, I laid the kid out and then went for the ball and Coach London told me that was a great way to use the anger but try to go for the ball first instead of the person.
After that day I decided to keep playing to get better because I realized that I can really do this with enough time put into it so that's what I did. I used to go up to the field for 6 hours a day trying to get better with a few other people who had more experience than me. That moment changed me because I took every opportunity to better my craft, every time a coach reaches out to me to work out or visit a college, no matter how tired I am I do it anyway because you never know who’s watching and that can open different doors in life. When I'm mad or frustrated I just go outside and start shooting at a wall or net. Playing sports can change your whole work ethic and you see things differently and realize how many people are willing to help if they see you putting the effort in. All these things show how I can deal with different situations and to improve myself if I put the time into it and I know that these attributes will carry on with me to college.
By Ryan Bernard-Amico
The year of 2010, fifth grade was upon me and I was eager to feel more open with my artistic side and show others what I can do. Halfway through the school year I created a piece which I had taken for granted because I thought it was just a kid like painting but I was wrong my skills had been noticed by the school of the arts. Turns out they thought my painting was great and deserved to be displayed in their school which made me feel accomplished. This gave a new perspective about my abilities and no longer did I question whether I had a gift or not. From there on I continued to get better and continued to get noticed for my work.
Drawing was always my passion when I was younger and I feel the love for it has grown stronger since then. The best part of being an artist is getting excellent compliments from others on my amazing work and the satisfaction of knowing I have something positive and creative to share with others. Although I feel I am talented and great at what I love, it seems that I always get criticized from someone who feels I can do better or someone that is jealous of my talents. I feel my art skills make me feel special because no one else in my family has this ability. My mother would always wonder where I got my artistic ability. Neither her nor my father were as talented.
The love for drawing has given me encouragement to pursue something that I am passionate about and I see as a successful career for myself. People have always told me that my skills are great and inspirational to them. My family is mostly who I draw for like tattoos or just general design work. I plan on doing sketches for people outside of my close family and friends and show everyone what I can do. This hobby has influenced me to be more creative and adventurous and I feel like this would make my name known by many.
I hope that my story is inspirational to other teens out there looking to pursue their dreams even if you just like doing it and it's doing something you enjoy. Interest is what can help you succeed or to help feel more open with yourself. Drawing has really influenced my life and gave me an interest in something great and a career that could last me a lifetime.
By Greg Tucker
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been told that I question things “too much”. On my end, people don’t question things enough. Example: I come from a Christian family that attended a Pentecostal church so I was always told to never question God and what he allowed to happen. I’ve witnessed many pastors preach to a congregation of desperate and hopeless individuals in need about “giving tithe to the house of the lord” for a blessing in return, only for them to pocket some of the money. Which prompted me to ask: How come everyone else arrives on foot, bicycle and cars made before 2007, yet the pastors arrive in brand-new luxury cars such as BMWs, Mercedes, Cadillacs and even Rolls Royces? In the same breath, I watched people hoot, holler and beg the lord for forgiveness, I’ve also watched them judge one another and act not in accordance with the bible; hypocrisy. My last straw was going into the basement of an all-black church, seeing an ethereal painting of a white man, with long brown hair, blue eyes, being told that this man was Jesus Christ, when our readings in children’s church followed characters in the Middle East; a contradiction. The hypocrisy that existed within the church ultimately prompted our family’s exit.
We went to church almost every Sunday, but because we didn't anymore, Sundays felt odd. I almost would feel as though we were doing something wrong for not attending church services anymore. That was until I stayed the week at a Christian church camp in the Adirondack Mountains for 2 consecutive years. And each time felt like I was slowly but surely being initiated into some twisted cult. They had strange music; the music was unlike any Gospel I’ve ever heard; the music was like some sort of advertisement for Christianity. There were strangers telling me how they loved me unconditionally because to them I was a “child of God”, that I was their “brother” and many more things that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand. They would also tell me that if I didn’t give my all to Jesus that I would burn in hell eternally. I felt as if I were being contracted to be a part of some sick deal with Jesus, rather than informed/invited to be a part of their community.
On the surface, these events seem to be normal experiences for most Christians. But for me these experiences were semi traumatic, which caused me to seek treatment for these mental ailments: spirituality. As these experiences were a result of the religion (organization around god) rather than god himself, my relationship with him was not hindered. Spirituality deepened my understanding of my connection with God. It never made me feel uncomfortable like religion did which made me conclude: sometimes questioning what God allows is okay; Curiosity can lead to a discovery that no religious leader, no book, not even the Bible, can help you find.
By Ramir Wearen
I remember back in 8th grade when I faced one of the toughest challenges in my life. It was time to take the regents for Algebra 1 and I completely flat lined the opportunity to pass. I almost remember the intensity that I felt up until taking the test and it wasn’t really killing me the fact that I was nervous for the test and I didn't know my ability. It was the fact that I felt unprepared; as of matter of fact, that’s how I felt for every single test I took. At that moment I knew that all of my decisions would be a reflection of how well I had done on that test- and there was little hope.
Up until the 8th grade I never fully could grasp the concept of math- not that it was hard, it just started to become too complex, the “a + b” and square roots… it was just a new influx of information coming in every other day and I learn the next thing before I ever fully understood the last. I can’t remember exactly how I felt when I didn't pass the test but I knew I felt a sense of defeat and regret. I thought about all the things that I wish I would’ve done differently and all the days I came late or never showed up. But the “toughest challenge” was never the test. It was me versus myself. I remember feeling so confused on questions it was almost like I’ve never seen those types of problems before. But it wasn’t that I just failed to study and practice to strengthen by ability. I always held on to faith and hope and thought that things would be easy and work out for me eventually, but no it cost me a lifetime of feeling uneasy about my academic abilities.
Even in my senior year I’ve never felt like I was where I actually should've been academically I feel that I was. I began taking classes that I felt that if I didn't fail my Algebra and Living Environments Regents would be better advanced places which also caused me some insecurity when it came to my school life. To conclude, This experience has not only taught me what it felt like to fail but I learned that I should always take advantage of opportunities that will be beneficial to me even if I feel that they won’t be helpful in the current situation, it's very possible that they will assist in my success in the future.
By Mckenna French
I don’t really know how to talk about myself and I am not one for small talk. For instance, I have never been the one to strike up a conversation about how I am doing, where I am in my life, or what my plans are for the future. I would rather just keep to myself and/or observe my surroundings. However, over the past seventeen years, I have begun to learn a few things about myself, including my likes, dislikes, areas of strength, and weakness. All the qualities that make me the person I am today, but yet still make me question who I have yet to be. From a very young age, I’ve been labeled a perfectionist. I have always paid extra attention to small details, and if anything is out of place, I’d do my best to fix it. For example, getting things done on time is somewhat of a challenge for me, I tend to wait until the last minute to make sure everything is just right. This is both a strength and a weakness because I would submit quality work but not always on time. I am very self-aware and know that I can be a little obsessive over work that I am passionate about, as well as detached from work I am not so into. This trait comes from the fear of thinking I was never good enough, so I would always try to overachieve goals set to prove to myself that I am, in fact, more than enough.