Operation Graduation 2011 Essay: Kaliee McCarthy (Skokie, Ill.)

Date: August 8, 2011

I look around at the kids who attend Ombudsman and I wonder what each of them did to get sent here. Each of us did something completely different or are here for very different reasons. But the one thing we all have in common is that, without Ombudsman, our dream of graduating from high school would probably never come true.

My years at my old high school were horrible. I always got picked on and attacked because of my weight.

I couldn’t even turn to my parents for support, because they felt the same way as the kids tormenting me. My parents hated the way I looked, especially my dad. He always used to ask me, “When do you want to stop being obese?” My mother never said anything in my defense.

So I came to hate going to school, because I was scared that I would be hurt again, physically or emotionally. To avoid that, I started ditching school.

It started with one class a day, but quickly expanded to an entire day at a time. Eventually, going to school at all seemed pointless.

This continued through my junior year until I finally got so tired of the abuse that I would lash out verbally at kids who tried to come at me. I quickly gained more respect and breathing room from friends and strangers.

But even once that part of my life was under more control, I couldn’t abandon my bad habit of ditching class. It just didn’t seem like a big deal to me at that point.

Then my mother received a letter which said that I would have to repeat junior year because I had missed so many classes. As my mother cried over the news, I realized that I had messed up my life as well as hers.

She began to lose faith in me, and I lost faith in myself. She would tell me what a failure I was, which only reinforced my own feelings of failure.

My downward spiral continued until my social worker told me about Ombudsman. Her initial description didn’t appeal to me very much, but the prospect of graduating on time sure did.

My mom and I cried with joy at the possibility of me graduating with my class.

I tried Ombudsman out and was surprised at how well it fit me. After a few weeks of attending, my motivation to succeed grew stronger.

I was taking additional classes at the district, and I even started improving in those because I was so comfortable and enjoyed my time at Ombudsman so much.

I never ditched class at Ombudsman because I never wanted to. The staff were always supportive, especially one of my teachers who also struggled with her weight.

I don’t know where I’d be without Ombudsman. But thanks to Ombudsman, I have become a better person and a high school graduate.

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