When I was in the fifth grade, they found a dead body in the school cafeteria’s vents. That morning started off like any other school day. My friends and I went to the cafeteria to get breakfast, and there was just a nauseating odor floating through the cafeteria. We thought nothing of it. We got our breakfast and then we headed to class. We were suddenly put under lockdown. That putrid smell turned out to be a dead body. When they told us the news, kids were crying and terrified. Parents rushed to the school to pick up their innocent, now scarred, children. School was closed for the day. As parents arrived, students were escorted to the front of the school and sent home. There were so many news reporters, police officers, and parents.
My name was finally called. My dad had come to pick me up. We only lived around the corner from the school, so he decided to walk to pick me up and take me home. We walked in the opposite direction of all of the police sirens, sobbing students, and aggressive reporters. My dad had his arm around me, protecting me from any further trauma. Then we entered the safety of my home. My parents asked me how I was and talked to me about the situation. I brushed it off and said I was fine. But, I couldn’t sleep well for a week. I kept imagining that eerie-smelling dead man in my closet.
School was back in session Monday. A lot of my best friends had moved schools. A lot of students left. No one wanted to go to the school with the dead body. My parents even gave me the option to move schools. But, I decided to stay. I would be out in three years. It wasn’t hard to go to this tainted school after that tragedy. My academics didn’t suffer. But, whenever my mind wasn’t occupied it would travel back to that day and imagine that man. That man turned out to be a student’s cousin who planned on stealing computers. That boy ended up moving schools. But, like a few of the students who had been at Sierra Vista since kindergarten, we decided to be warriors and stay. We weren’t giving up on our school.
That tragedy defined my school experience. I went to terrible low-income public schools, but I taught myself to never give up on my neighborhood schools. I lived in the neighborhoods, so instead of putting down the schools in my neighborhood and abandoning them for schools in wealthy neighborhoods, I should try to fix them and not give up on them. I maintained this attitude throughout high school as well. I went to the school near to my home. It has a bad reputation, but I still got the most out of my experience.
In second grade, I was placed in a gifted program at my school. I was in the program until the program was taken away. Maybe in this program I became aware of my self-sufficiency, but I knew a school did not define my academic abilities, I did. I worked hard even though my school did not have many resources. When I graduated eighth grade, I got a scholarship from the high school district I was going to attend for being the top eighth grade student.
When it came time to decide on a high school, I had already decided I was going to South Mountain. A lot of my friends ended up going to Tempe High School. It is a school in a nice neighborhood. Buses would pick kids up in front of our old elementary school, that is now shut down because of dwindling numbers of students, and ship them off to the “better school”. Like always, I was a star student even though I was not at the best school. I took all honors and AP classes, I was in National Honor Society, and I was winning all kinds of awards.
Sometimes I resented my school. When we would have to travel to other schools for clubs or anything, it would just be uncomfortable to see other schools. They had such nice things, such good programs, better test scores as a school. It made me feel inferior. I don’t think I rid myself of inferiority until junior year of high school when I took the ACT test. I ended up getting a 28. It said only a small percent, in the whole state or country, did better than me. It made me feel good about myself. That confidence followed me into senior year.
Senior year was a big year for me, and it was a big year for my school. I got into a bunch of universities, but I ultimately decided on the University of San Francisco. No one from my school ever really goes to college, so this was a big deal. I also got over 320,000 in scholarships. The biggest scholarship I got was the Gates Millennium Scholarship. I felt like it all was more than for just me though, it was also for my school. I was the first Gates Millennium Scholar from my high school and my neighborhood. They were so happy for me, so happy for what it did to the school. I when I got the Gates Scholarship, they had my picture up in the admissions office. They also had my name up on the billboard and said congratulations. They interviewed me for the school news. A teacher I did not even know well gave me fifty dollars. The district also posted me on the district website and honored me at their district meeting. Then, at senior assembly, they recognized me and everyone chanted my name. I was a school celebrity my last few months of school.
After all of the strife I endured with my schools, I still ended up in a great place. I would like to add, all of my old friends who abandoned me and went to Tempe High are all now young mothers, or not doing well. The moral of my story is that, it doesn’t matter where you go, what matters is who you are. I went to terrible schools, but I still was able to do great things for myself because I have a hunger for success and I am intelligent. Maybe going to the schools I went to taught me that unlike some kids, I have to work extra hard for my dreams. Well, working extra hard has been the best thing I could have done because I am now attending a private university, and I am living in a great city all for free because I got a full-ride scholarship. Every time I go home and pass by my elementary school and high school, I think of all those classes I sat in: listening to lectures, doodling on my notebooks, and simply waiting to get out of those four walls… Who would have thought when I got out I would end up where I am now?