I’m not bragging. I’m just laying it out there, so you know where I’m coming from. In Junior High, I got by on the tests. I didn’t do class work or homework. In high school… I got Mono my freshman year and missed a month. And then really was interested in.. NOT school. So, I failed my Freshman year. Around this time, my aunt passed away and we moved to another rent house.
My new school district was Fair Park and got in a fight on my way to register. Defending myself!!! I didn’t pick a fight. Isn’t like all 5ft and all 95lbs of me could really have been a bully. I just objected to the shove I got in the hallway. A lot. The Vice Principle basically told me he was NOT spending his year tied up with a little white girl who thought she could fight. So, he sent me to the Caddo Parish version of alternative school:
“School Away From School”.
Thug heaven baby.
I could smoke. Heck, the teachers smoked with us. Sometimes they even bummed them from us.
We had no cafeteria, which was fine, brought a sammich and my Marlboros.
Had to ride the city bus to West 76th streeet, then walk through the hood to the school.
We had a coke machine and a snack vending machine. WE HAD A COKE MACHINE! Regular schools did NOT have that (not back in that day).
It was basically one big room with partitions into the “classes”.
We worked at our own pace. You finish a chapter, take the test, etc,.. You finish the book? You’re done with the subject. You didn’t have to sit in that teacher’s “section” for the rest of that quarter.
There was no teaching. The teachers, just sat there. And joked and talked to us students. I don’t even recall there being a chalk board for them to teach from.
And all the boys, were bad boys.
Did I mention the frequent smoke breaks?
Thug heaven baby.
Most of the girls there were sent to this school because they got pregnant. It’s what they did back then. You didn’t just go on to high school with the rest of the students. You were sent away. I just so happen to be one of the few females that was sent to School Away From School and wasn’t pregnant. Well.. not when I started there anyway.
At age 15, I got pregnant. The moment I found out , I grew up. I knew I had to plan a future. I knew I’d have to fast track it. I knew I had another human being to consider. I knew this changed EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING.
I decided I’d quit school and go get my GED. I couldn’t legally quit until I was 16, but knew by the time they “caught up” with me, I’d be 16 and a Mom. This isn’t a recommendation to anyone’s teenagers , just confessing what my thoughts were at the time. This was probably the least "grown up" decision I made. But, in MY situation... it was what would benefit my future best.
Bahhhhh! Young and dumb.
The October after I turned 16, I had my son. I was a natural mom. My son had a renal disease (which is this whole other story) and I was very mature for my age, I handled everything well and in my son’s best interest.
At age 17, I was working at a Day Care and went to take my GED.
The professor admistering the test was kind. I found out through conversation with the other applicants that they'd all taken classes for this. I was feeling even more concerned because when I went and took the pretest, they told me just schedule the test. OMG! Everyone else took classes?!?!?! THEY STUDIED!
Toast. I’m toast.
So, I began the test. Found it easy. Seemed like more common sense than book sense to me.
When I finished the test, I placed it on the professor’s desk, and returned to my seat. He’d call your name and either give a thumbs up (and you could go!) or ask you to come up there… those people looked quite dejected. The ones called up.
I was getting nervous, because I’d finished so fast and well... he wasn’t calling me. Not doing the thumbs up thing. But he kept looking up at me as he graded tests.
Finally, He calls my name. And asks me to come up there.
He asked me to sit.
Then this man, this stranger, this college professor (what I perceived as) to rich kids… he changed my life. Sounds dramatic? But, this is true. This man changed my life.
In one conversation , this man took a leap of faith and took the time to talk to me. He asked me what I’m doing with my life.
And in my mind.. all I could think was great.. I bombed this so bad, this man is concerned.
I told him I was working in a day care.
The professor asked me what did I WANT to do.
I told him... be a nurse. I really wanted to be a nurse. I was raised around a hospital (my mom). And I had a sick son and all I’ve ever wanted, was to be a nurse.
I finally eeked out,”Did I pass?” I remember him chuckling at me. And nodded his head. (whew!)
He says, " Your application says you didn't pass the 9th grade". I confirmed this for him. (Sinking deeper into that seat) But, then...he told me how high I’d scored, (Apparently, I rocked that test) he only wanted to verify my actual level of education and said, “you do know you’re a very intelligent young lady, don’t you?” I recall my voice cracking, “I guess I didn’t”.
The professor told me that I needed to go to college. Finally, tears began spilling over my cheeks. And I told him, I’m a teenage mom with no money. I can’t go to college. The professor then told me about grant and loans. And that the government would “grant” me the money to go to school. Even with "just" a GED. Wow.
This was not something I knew anything about. I mean, no one in my family had really ever mentioned that you could go to college for FREE. I had no idea that I lived in the greatest country in the world, that a poor high school dropout could get an education. FOR FREE!!! God bless the Pell Grant.
Do you know what?
That professor was right.
I DID get grants and loans. (I'm also sure I’ve paid them back several times in taxes)
I was intelligent. I rocked college. (yup.. that's me bragging)