Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dropping Out: A Students Perspective

The following blog is an installment in the DCAYA “School Climate” series. We asked experts, community members, and youth to write about the variables affecting school climate. Guest blogger Precious, a DC public school graduate writes about her high school experience and the struggles she faced to make it to gradation day.

Growing up I was raised by my mother, a single parent, and she tried her best to support me, my brother, and my cousin. In my house attending school was expected, but to me it wasn't mandatory because my mother worked from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the same hours as school. High school was the hardest for me because I had to get up early and catch two to three buses just to get to school. In my 9th grade year it seemed like every student in Spingarn Senior High school was in the hallways smoking, fighting, and just skipping class. I was a part of the skipping class club because all my friends were in the hallways hanging out. I never liked going to class because the teachers were boring and the classes were empty. So instead, I tagged along with my friends.

The principal didn't really care, she allowed the students to do whatever they wanted. Students jumped other students and went inside teachers’ classrooms and stole laptops and the principal did not suspend them. Violence between gangs took place and a gun was shot in the hallways of my school. At that point my best friend Jessica and I stopped attending school all together. We would go over to our friend’s house and just hang out and watch television. We did not care about getting an education because at that time our social lives were more important. Four months went by and we were still doing the same thing everyday.

One day, the school called Jessica's mother to let her know we were tardy and we told her we had been going to school. Jessica's mother believed us and the next day we decided we had better return to school. The first day back I asked all my teachers if I was failing. In 50% of my classes I received an “F” and the other 50% I received a “D.” At that point I was afraid of failing because I had not been to school and I was pretty sure that I was not going to be able to raise my grades by passing finals. I did not learn my lesson and started skipping class again. A month passed and I found out that Jessica and I had to attend summer school.

I was angry, not because I had to go to summer school, but because I had to spend my entire summer doing work that I could have done during the school year. The most frustrating part was that one of the classes I had to take in summer school was music. “Who goes to summer school for music?” was all I could think. I should have taken my classes more seriously. At that moment, I told myself that I would do whatever had to be done to pass summer school.

Three weeks went by and Jessica was kicked out of summer school for missing too many days. I was so scared because all I had was Jessica, we were like two peas in a pod. After a day of thinking, I decided that this is my future and if I wanted to pass the 9th grade then I had to finish summer school. I passed summer school and started my 10th grade year.

I realized I had to change who I was to succeed in life. I had to leave the old 9th grade Precious behind and make a fresh start. That's what I did, I started passing all my classes and going to school everyday. Education was the key to my success and I wanted to go to college.

I looked up to my cousin, Rashad, who graduated from high school and attended college. I felt that if he could graduate, then maybe I could too because we both came from the same background. Things were different for Jessica, she decided to drop out of school. She claimed the school was too far, the teachers did not know how to teach and she was above everybody else in the classroom so she never learned anything new. I told Jessica that was no reason for her to drop out but instead she stayed home and slept all day. Unlike Jessica, I had to go to school because that was the only way that I could apply for college and dropping out was not an option.

After working hard for two years, I made it to my senior year. I was nervous and excited. During my senior year I was given the opportunity to become an intern with Urban Alliance. Urban Alliance placed me at the lovely Sitar Arts Center where students and family can come to a comfortable and safe place to share their creativity. I worked at Sitar and took two classes in digital arts and photography. For me to keep my internship with Urban Alliance I had to maintain a grade point average of 2.0 and graduate from high school. I wanted to keep my internship at Sitar so I worked hard.

At Sitar, I was given the opportunity to take a Film Documentary class every Thursday. I really wanted to take this class because I was interested in movies, documentaries and cameras. In the documentary class, I had an idea to make a film about high school drop outs. I wanted to explore this idea because my two best friends dropped out of high school and it really made me sad to see them give up on education. I wanted to tell a story that even though students drop out of high school it does not mean they do not care about school. It means they just need a little extra help getting back on the right track.

Click HERE to watch the Trailer of "Doing it for Me"

Shooting the documentary showed me that I made the right choice to continue on going to summer school and staying in high school. I wish my best friend had graduated with me, but things change and you learn from them. If I could go back in time I would have stopped skipping class. I would have called Jessica every morning so she could wake up in time for summer school. I would have helped Jessica with anything she needed help with in high school. If I could have just done a little more, then on June 13, 2013 my best friend and I would have both walked across the Spingarn Senior High School stage and graduated with honors. My advice for students having a rough school year is to stay focused, be determined and never give up on your dreams, because at the end of the day it's up to you to make them happen.

Precious is a Sitar Arts intern and is currently working on a documentary about the school drop out crisis in D.C.. She will be attending Edward Waters College in Florida this fall.  

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