To the teachers who care, and to the students who may or may not~
My personal journey over the past several years has been not only formative, but razing and reformative; some experiences truly tear away pieces of who you are and replace them, making you the man (or woman) you will become.
By the second half of my senior year of high school, I had already made the decision to attend community college in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, rather than go through the process of applying to colleges. There were several reasons for this decision, not the least of which was the fact that I was tired of the red tape and single-file processes that seem to come along with higher education. My plan was a simple one, to rent a house with several good friends, attend junior college, and work a part-time job. Sooner than expected, though, my disdain for class attendance got the better of me, and I made the decision to work more hours rather than stick with my studies. It was after this decision was made that things got interesting.
I was living in a two-story house in Battery Park off of Chamberlain Avenue, near a public housing project known as Gilpin Court, complete with peeling laminate floors and a glass front door. Four good friends of mine lived there with me, along with a cat that had, at some point, forced its way into our household. During this period of time, the most important thing to me was the time I spent with my friends and roommates, all of whom were significantly older than I was, which made them invaluable to my growing process; every time I found myself overwhelmed by life as an adult, by bills, by work, they were there to happily offer advice and help. My closeness with my friends, however, is also the reason I seldom talk about this period of my life, as the suicide of a good friend provided a dark ending to my stay in Battery Park.
After moving out of north side into an apartment south of Belle Isle, I began to get more serious about my behavior. What had begun as a part-time job as a cashier had become a fifty hour per week venture. I adopted a rescued pit bull soon after she finished rehabilitation from injuries sustained in a dog fighting ring in eastern Virginia. I began playing guitar in a band, to which I was entirely dedicated. I threw myself into whatever I did with intense commitment and reckless abandon. At some point, between parties and concerts, among friends and pets, throughout jubilation and mourning, life had taught me a lesson with which I hadn't been equipped throughout my days in high school, about work and rewards. This lesson is something educators are sometimes able to teach in the classroom, and something my friends and my life had managed to teach me slightly later.
Once I awakened to this new attitude, I found myself no longer content with my lifestyle. My tenure in food service, now a several-year career, I began to find repetitive. Life on my own, which had so far served as a monument to my self-reliance, had to change, and I made the decision to begin working on college applications. By this time somewhat of a loner, I spent months collecting work for portfolios, sending transcripts, attending interviews, and completing forms with general personal information.
Despite my educational hiatus, teachers with whom I had worked in high school were once again inestimably helpful and selfless in their pursuit of my access to college, and it is thanks to them that I am able to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall.
During my senior speech, which I delivered at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, I said that teachers are key to students' growth. Now I think I should think a bit more carefully about the words I choose as I restate my opinion: Teachers are guides, like a compass to point you in the right direction. Once life has shown you who you want to be, you can begin using the things your educators show you to start your personal development. Educators are, above all, inspiration.