Finding the right path

"Guys get impatient waiting for school to end, not sure they would ever get good jobs. They decide to sell drugs and drop out of school because they thought there was no hope."

I’m from Chicago, the south side, where me and my family struggled to keep a steady roof over our heads. My mom worked as a nursing assistant, and my dad wasn’t living with us but helped out as much as he could.

One thing that was consistent was the violence and crime rate. My mother often woke my older sister and me in the middle of the night, and we would all crawl to the bathroom where there were no windows because there were drive-by shootings.

Most of our apartments were one bedroom with no bed, no kitchen table and no couch. All we had for entertainment was a TV and something to sit the TV on.

When I was six my dad moved my family from Chicago to St. Paul. Things got a lot better. We now had a steady place to call home, but there were still a lot more things to overcome.

When I was in the first grade while living in St. Paul, my class had a Halloween party. My teacher made a requirement for each kid to bring two bags of candy. I was unable to meet that requirement so the teacher told the kids not to share with me and went out of her way to joke about me being unable to meet such a low standard.

When I was in the fourth grade, I wanted to play 10 and under basketball. To play I had to pay $60 all together. I couldn’t pay that. Those were the least of my problems. When I couldn’t play for the basketball team, I then began to really understand the struggles my mother faced and really felt sorry for her.

As I got older my family didn’t struggle as much for the basic needs. I was able to play for basketball teams, and our living conditions were much better, but we still lived in a community where a lot of people struggled and bad things were happening.

When I was in the fifth grade, a man was shot and killed at a playground by the apartment building we lived in. I also began to take a different turn in my life, and most of my friends did also.

During my 7th grade year I was suspended five times and sent home for the day eight times. Most of my troubles were because of racial fights with Hispanic guys. The fights were to prove who was the hardest. My 8th grade year was no better; in fact I got into more trouble. My grades improved a lot but I still couldn’t get my behavior together.

I started to notice that a lot of my troubles were because of some of the friends I had. Most of my friends were from elementary school, and we all had become different people. Most of my friends had troubles far from school like fights in the neighborhood, shootings at house parties and going to juvenile detention.

I avoided a lot of trouble outside of school because my mother took note of my every move. When she did allow me to go out I had to come in by midnight. I also had to check in every hour. My mother wouldn’t allow me to hang out with friends of mine she didn’t like.

For most of my high school life I’ve struggled with behavior issues. I have never been a really disrespectful guy but mainly a guy with a short temper who is quick to fight.

But for the last two years I’ve changed a lot about myself. I started to recognize the things that were going on around me and did a lot of thinking. It took me until my junior year to adjust to a new life style of working hard to one day help change the trends of poverty. I started to see life in a different way after being suspended for a fight during my junior year. Teachers were asking me what is it that I want to do with my life — do I want to finish high school. I felt like a joke. No one took me serious when I told them I want to become a sports reporter.

One person who had belief in me was Kwaame McDonald, a writer for the Spokesman-Recorder and a high school basketball announcer. McDonald became a mentor for me. He took me out to games and helped me meet people who could work with me on my writing.

I’m now a senior a Highland Park Senior High School in St. Paul and will be graduating in June. I write for my school paper as well as ThreeSixty. I will be attending college this up coming fall but I still haven’t decided which school.

But I have friends who are still struggling. Sometimes they gave me an excuse for not wanting to go to school because they didn’t have anything to wear. All my experiences with my friends and school trouble come back to poverty – that’s why a lot of black males struggle in school. Guys get impatient waiting for school to end, not sure they would ever get good jobs. They decide to sell drugs and drop out of school because they thought there was no hope. Instead of going through the school and waiting for success, guys insisted they needed the money now and that school couldn’t help them.

I have made a lot of bad decisions over the years, but thanks to a loving mother who kept me close until I was able to make the right decisions, I’m now on the right path. I also had other people who help me instill confidence in myself that I could do what ever I wanted to do.