a few years ago i realized that i define the different times in my life by my educational status. when i would think back to when i first heard a song or saw a movie or what guy i liked, there it was, on the shelf in my mind, hmmm, what grade was i in at that time? i presume that a great many people view their lives this way as well, but possibly don’t put as much emphasis on it as i do. perhaps that is because they haven’t been able to view their education to possibility ratio as clearly as i have been able to in my life.
as a child, i went to a public school. when i was in 4th grade my parents decided to move my brother, sister and me into a parochial school. this was a very big event in my life as it was then that i found out that i was abnormally intelligent. the new school wanted to skip me to 8th grade because of my standardized tests and iq score. this ended up not happening since i would be passing my older brother and sister. it caused so much tension in the family that when it came time for us to take our exams as a class, i staged a coup and tried to get the other fourth graders to follow my example of refusal to be categorized as a number. i’m certain that i was very cute….but i did end up taking the tests.
after a year and a half, my parents decided that parochial schools weren’t any better than public ones and we were taken out of the school system with the understanding that we would be taught at home. this worked for a while. my mother was very dedicated and did an excellent job of making learning fun and interesting for the three of us kids. however, my parents’ marriage was about to end. when my mother left, the schooling went with her. i had just completed the fifth grade. over the next several years i was enrolled in a three schools and lived in more places than i can remember. suffice it to say, i didn’t get much of an education….at least not in a scholastic sense. i did have plenty of horrifying adventures and spent a lot of time fending for myself, sometimes with the aid of drugs or alcohol. i became street smart, but i completely missed out on the basics of junior high. i had no knowledge of history, geography, long division, fractions and a myriad of other topics that i’m certain would have been useful in my future.
when i was 13 years old, my parents had both decided to remarry. neither was in a position to take care of me at the time and it was decided that i would go to live at a school called, “mooseheart”. mooseheart is in aurora, illinois and is a home for children whose families can no longer care for them. it is not a detention center, it’s more like an orphanage. the students are there so that they don’t become wards of the state. i didn’t want to go. i didn’t want to keep being separated from my family. this was a place that i would have to live in for 4 years. there wouldn’t be any summer vacations at my parents’ new homes….this school would be my home.
in mooseheart i encountered a different way of life. i would be lying if i said that it was easy to be there. it was difficult emotionally, physically, psychologically….but it could have been worse. my entire life would have been much worse if i hadn’t gotten everything that i could obtain from this experience. aside from a scholastic curriculum, i also had structure. i had security from knowing that i wouldn’t have to steal or scam my way into a meal. eventually i had friends and with that i had the opportunity to see that my life wasn’t nearly as horrible as so many others were.
i had to test into 9th grade, since i hadn’t had much of an education in the years prior to my admittance to mooseheart. of course, i had no problem passing into my rightful year of school. by the time i graduated, it was with high honors. i won my first writing award in my senior year and had many other academic achievements to my name. i did all of this while running track, being on the cheerleading squad, playing in the band, singing in the chorus, writing for the school paper, designing the yearbook, and being on the scholastic competition team. i was the only student in the history of the school to be involved in every possible extra-curricular activity at the same time. the only things that i didn’t participate in were volleyball and basketball….but i was on the bowling team.
when i left mooseheart, it was with a full-academic, five-year scholarship. i graduated from my first college with high honors and am ready to go back and get another degree.
why is education important to me? without it, i would probably still be scamming money to buy food and drugs somewhere in joliet….and even if that were what my life was….it could still be much worse.
this year’s twestival charity is called, “concern worldwide”. this organization has been “bringing education to the world’s poorest children” for 40 years. this was my story, as a girl in illinois….imagine what opportunities would have been if my story had turned out differently….how would you have helped?
for more information on twestival and concern worldwide, please visit www.twestival.com
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