By Christina Martinez
I was only 16 and for the second time, I dropped out of school. My mom had been thrown in jail temporarily for a month, but now she was arrested again and going away for a long time. I had no other family and my dad didn’t want me to live with him. My greatest struggle was about to become my greatest triumph.
<strong>My First Two Years of High School were a Mess.</strong>
I was out of school more often than I was in. I would miss school for weeks at a time in order to take care of my baby brother and help my mom. I would go to school for a few days of one week and then go with my mom all over town for a few more weeks. By the time I was supposed to be classified as a junior, I barely had enough credits to be classified as a sophomore. The years that are typically the easiest and happiest for most high school students were the hardest—but, ironically, the most rewarding–for me.
I Wanted to Overcome This Challenge
In order to get myself on track to graduate, I re-enrolled at my local high school after the second semester had started. Since my mom was in jail, I had to forge her signature in order to enroll. Since I was enrolling so late in the semester I was ineligible for credit if I had even a single absence in any class or if I earned anything less than an A in any class. I worked harder than I ever have in my life to convince my teachers that I wanted to be there. I wanted to learn and I knew I was capable of achieving an A in every course. I did it and that meant I was half way to being classified as a junior.
I Had to Double My Efforts to Make It Work
In the fall, I registered as a junior at my regular high school. I also registered at another high school for night classes. I took extra classes at my regular high school after school until my night school classes started.
Additionally, I entered a School-to-Work program and got a job at Planet Fun where I worked 30 hours a week in order to get the school credit for my work. I kept this pace for the entire school year. By the time graduation came, I was still one credit short. I took 1/2 credit of math and one half credit of English in summer school and graduated in July.
I was So Proud of Myself
I did this. By myself. Against all the odds. And I did it with a 4.0 grade point average. I have never been so proud of myself in my entire life. I have now completed my Bachelor’s Degree, but this achievement—though a supposedly greater one–doesn’t feel close to the accomplishment that graduating from high school did.
I Almost Didn’t Think I Would Make It
When I was struggling through high school classes, I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I seriously considered quitting and just testing for my GED. I don’t know how I kept going, but there was one thought that really motivated me.
The One Thing That Kept Me From Quitting
My baby brother was just two years old and he really meant the world to me. I didn’t want him to get to high school and think that it would be okay for him to quit. I didn’t want him (or any children that I may have) to ask, “What difference does it make if I drop out? You did!” I wanted to set the example for my little brother and my future children to know that it was important to finish school and to do their best.
I wanted my little brother to look up to me and be proud of who I was. I wanted my parents and my sister to be proud of what I did. Mostly, I wanted to be able to look in the mirror every day and know that I worked for something and accomplished it, that I didn’t quit, and that I didn’t become just another sad statistic.
How I Wanted to Be Defined
I think we define our character in high school, and I wanted to define myself as a success, as a hard worker, and as a role model. I did it. I have built on that accomplishment now and have overcome many other difficulties because I learned what persistence and drive can accomplish. Sometimes our greatest accomplishments do come from our greatest struggles.