The “average” high school student leaves high school with a story very similar to other “average” high school student stories. They start high school in ninth grade and finish in the twelfth grade. Their grades are mostly As, Bs, and Cs. And, when graduation day comes, they grab their high school diplomas with a sigh of relief and go off to college.
But for me the story is different, because I’m not your average high school student.
When I do something, I strive to be excellent. But to me, school was a place for my social life, not preparing for a future. I left high school in tenth grade to enroll in an independent studies program, because my teachers were problematic and overcritical. As a result I was failing because I never wanted to show up. After two years, I discovered, to my dismay, that the program wasn’t accredited. To make matters worse I couldn’t return to high school because I was too far behind.
Fortunately I was able to enroll in SCUSD’s Wilson High School accredited independent studies program. But two months later, my grandma – with whom I lived – broke the news that she was moving to Louisiana. I was six months pregnant, had no job, and, now, no place to live.
My future was going nowhere. Until one night I happened to catch CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper talking about his book, “Dispatches from the Edge.”
It wasn’t Cooper’s book that changed my life, but a comment he made: “Hope is not a plan.” I couldn’t help but think about my life – past, present, and especially future. My whole life I had been ‘hoping’ good things would just come my way – hoping to get my high school diploma, hoping to go to college. But life doesn’t work like that, because hope is not a plan.
I suddenly understood. In order to have these good things I wanted, I’d have to work toward what I hoped for – it wouldn’t happen by me sitting around waiting.
I got serious about school and let my social life take a back seat. If I wanted to be successful I would have to give up anything that was standing in my way – even activities and friends that were important to me. Because there was nothing at that point that meant more to me than finishing high school.
The first day I stepped foot into the counselor’s office, I asked her how long it would take for me to get my high school diploma. After looking down at my transcript, she replied “two years,” reminding me that I had to complete 110 credits. That was easily two years of work.
However, I told her, “I’m going to finish my high school diploma in one year, and one year only.” And I’m proud to say that I did just that. I got my diploma in one year, with a 3.6 GPA.
The journey wasn’t easy. I had to repeat many classes. At first, I was crushed to repeat classes I had taken before. Then I began to like it because I was able to relearn subjects, and, most of all, rediscover my passions for math and science.
Repeating classes wasn’t my only problem. I had to fight other people’s low expectations. I must have been asked a hundred times if I was “getting my GED” – as if that was the only possible alternative to spending four years in a conventional high school. When I answered, “no,” the same people would point how ‘easy’ it was to get a GED.
But getting by easily wasn’t the point. I wanted what every other high school student had, a high school diploma that measured the completion of specific academic work.
I received my diploma in June and I’ve enrolled in Mission Community College. Right now I plan to major in Nutritional Sciences and hope to become a cardiovascular dietitian. It’s not about how long it’s going to take me. I know from the first time I set foot on a university campus, I’ll be successful. Because now I’ve learned that making a plan is the first step to making hopes real.
Keamiyah Walker is a graduate of SCUSD’s three-decade old Wilson High School’s Young Parents program. She is also a winner of a 2011 Employer-School Council scholarship.