Operation Graduation 2010 Essay: Grace Alderson, Gurnee, Ill.

Date: June 29, 2010

The transition from junior high school to high school can be particularly disorienting for some people including me. I felt my junior high school had not prepared me academically for the insurmountable effort and time needed to attain excellent grades at [my new high school]. The only honors class in [my junior high] was pre-algebra in math which I took. Although I got all A’s my whole time there (besides a B in gym once), I didn’t have to put very much effort into the homework because, frankly, it was so easy for me.

As soon as I began attending [my new high school], I was put in all honors classes which mostly consisted of other students in grade levels higher than me. I did enjoy being really challenged for once. Nevertheless, I remember one time in my honors English class, being assigned a formal college format essay on “A Tale of Two Cities.” I worked diligently to write an outstanding paper, but when I turned it in I only got a C on it. Even after putting far more effort into my classes than I was used to, I still wasn’t getting the grades that I expected of myself and this really beat me down. I expected perfection from myself and when I couldn’t achieve it, I gave up.

Eventually I started coming to school late regularly and missing school altogether, which only made it more difficult for me to get good grades and created a vicious cycle. The pressure I felt from my enormous work load was only added to by the increasing social anxiety I felt at Warren. With thousands of students packed into too small of hallways and rooms, I was in constant fear of being judged. By junior year, I attended the first day of school and then never came back. I would wake up every morning for school and panic from the fear of [my high school’s] overwhelming atmosphere and expectations. Luckily, during a meeting with my school counselor, she recommended I look into Ombudsman. That advice probably saved my high school education.

After an informational meeting at Ombudsman, I knew it would be a terrific opportunity for me. One issue I had with attending Warren that I struggled with was the fact that once I walked out the door of my house, I was basically stuck for eight hours. With the control issues I have, the feeling of not being able to freely leave somewhere if I felt the need to was daunting. At Ombudsman I only had to stay for three hours, which seemed a whole lot less intimidating than eight straight hours. I also had more time to spend at work so that I could save up money for college and things that I need.

In addition to this, the class sizes at Ombudsman were about half the size of Warren classes, if not less. Also having two teachers for every class was very helpful because I like to ask lots of questions and get help when I need it. Another problem I had with Warren was that I like to learn at my own pace. Sometimes, especially in math, I would get stuck on a certain topic and the class would move on before I had time to figure it out or ask for help.

Here, I can work at my own pace and choose what topics I want to cover on which days. I am good at taking in information, but not as much when I’m listening to a teacher talk for an extended period of time. Having the appropriate information provided to me, from which I can basically teach myself at my own pace and ask questions if I need to, is exactly what I had wished I could do when I attended Warren.

Coming to Ombudsman offered me a chance to earn a high school diploma without struggling everyday to motivate myself to get to school and suffering through the long days full of panic attacks and fear. It has provided me with an essentially stress free environment with which to get an education more effectively in. I don’t know what I would have done without Ombudsman.

I am so appreciative that I was given this opportunity that so many adults and other people I have talked to wished they had had. My life has improved considerably from attending Ombudsman, with less time spent stressing out and worrying, and more time spent working towards my goals. I plan to go to community college for a year or so to get some required classes out of the way, and then I want to go to graduate school to hopefully earn a masters degree in Biology or Psychology.

Categories: Education Resources, Success Stories
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