How I Graduated from High School
I remember my first day at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn. I was scared and nervous, walking back and forth looking for the classrooms and going through a lot of confusion that really made me want to cry. I think that a lot of kids go through that on their first day of high school.
It was hard at first keeping up with the classes and the teachers, especially in math. I always fell asleep in math because it was boring and I hated it.
Other times I didn’t care because I used to put myself down all the time, and I used to think I was never gonna make it. Those were the kind of thoughts that used to go through my mind. Thinking like that made me say to myself, “Why bother?”
It took me a while to stop thinking that way by realizing this was my future that I was messing with. If other people could do it, so could I. And I started to think of one thing someone once told me: “Never say never until you try.”
Hard Not to Be Lazy
From there I decided to make a change. I started studying for every test and going over my math when I wasn’t doing anything. When I finally made some progress in math, everything started to go well for me. I started doing my homework for every class, ‘cause the teachers were tired of hearing, “I left the homework on the kitchen table by mistake ‘cause I was rushing for school.”
The teachers were simply asking me to do my homework and my work when I came to class. That’s not a hard thing to do, right? I was just lazy.
It was hard to stop being lazy. Going to math class at 8:30 in the morning wasn’t my style. I would say to myself, “This week I’m gonna cut this class and that class, and next week I’ll start going to all my classes.” It took me a while to finally make up my mind to go to all my classes.
Hard to Concentrate
That’s what my main problem was—laziness. But I fought it because I knew that I didn’t want to get left back. I didn’t want to disappoint my foster parents, ‘cause they believed that I was gonna make it. That would have hurt me very bad, to let them and everybody else down. Most of all, I wouldn’t be proud of myself or forgive myself for not trying hard enough.
My other problem was not being able to concentrate in school. I couldn’t stop thinking about the problems I had in foster care. I couldn’t stop worrying about what was gonna happen to me in the future after leaving foster care, whether I would be dead or alive by the age of 20, or make it to see tomorrow.
But after a while I realized that I had to work hard. Every time I got my report card, I knew I had to be more serious in order to reach my goals in life. To have a good future, you got to have a high school diploma and a college degree.
From my hard work I made it to the 10th grade. By then I knew everybody, every teacher and every kid in school. But I had gone back to cutting classes. I didn’t do it as often as I used to. I would only cut a class that I didn’t feel like going to. I didn’t get into the habit of cutting classes every day because I would have regretted it later on.
Proving Dad Wrong
When I started 11th grade, I was still going to school and doing what I had to do. But in the 12th grade, I started to panic because I was afraid that I wasn’t gonna make it. I couldn’t concentrate in school again. I used to think about the past, about all the things that I went through.
A lot of things were on my mind. That’s when I started to believe what my father used to say, that I would never graduate “because I’m nothing.”
These were the thoughts on my mind 24/7 that I couldn’t stop worrying about. I realized I needed to concentrate more when I saw my first report card from my senior year. I was disappointed with myself for thinking about other things instead of school. I wanted to do well and graduate to prove my dad wrong.
So I decided to take night school and work extra hard. My foster parents stood by my side and got me a tutor to help me with my math three days a week. I had tutoring in school for my RCTs two days a week. Boy, I started to get tired of it, but I kept going, even though I didn’t like tutoring, because I knew it was for the best.
The hardest thing for me about going to school and being in foster care was when my friends would talk about their families and how cool they are. That would make me jealous, because that’s not the family I have. And my friends would go on and on about it. Man, that used to make me so sick. It’s like they would continue on about their families just to torture me. Only a few of my friends knew I was in foster care.
Hearing my friends talking about these things used to make me angry and depressed. A lot of time in class I would be in another world, just thinking about how unhappy I was with myself and my house (even though at least I wasn’t living on the streets, and I thank God for that). It’s just that I wasn’t happy in my foster home. So going to school was much better than being in my house, and when school was over and it was time for me to go home, I would get very depressed.
School Was Like Home
School was like my real home because everybody there showed that they cared about how I was doing. When I needed someone to talk with, the teachers were always there to listen and to give me advice. I think the reason my teachers were always there for me was because they knew my situation and they were trying to help me and I think that was very sweet of them.
The teachers cared about others, too. But I had the most attention. I guess it’s because they felt bad for me because I’m in care and because of the problems I was going through. Most of them wanted me to succeed.
So after school my social studies teacher would give me extra help in social studies. If I missed a day I would get in trouble. That showed me that she cared a lot about my education.
When my teacher told me that I passed everything and the RCTs and that I was graduating, I was so very happy. With God by my side, He made it happen for me.
On the day of my graduation, my foster family was there cheering for me because they were proud of me and I was proud of myself that I made it.
The day after I graduated I finally called my dad, who I never used to keep in contact with. I told him that I got my diploma. He cried because he wasn’t expecting it. He thought I was a loser. He was expecting my sister Ingrid to graduate, but instead my sister turned out to be the dropout.
I’m angry at my sister for the fact that she gave up and stopped trying, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love her. She’s my big sister and she’s in my heart. She’s a very big part of me.
My advice to others—I just want to say never think any less of yourself because you’re in care and never feel that you’re never gonna make it. ’Cause it’s not true. If you work hard, everything will be okay. Just take everything one day at a time. Never think low of yourself or say that you’re never gonna make it. You have the power to make things happen for yourself.