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Posts Tagged ‘High school

Op-Ed: The Quirks of Being An Outsider

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A couple of years ago, I read a book called The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins. The book discusses high school popularity and the quirk theory. The quirk theory states that the traits causes you to be excluded in high school are things that people will value in adulthood and outside of school.

I read this book feeling comforted because I was one of those excluded teens in high school. However, I was also skeptical. After all, how could I experience the quirk theory while attending a community college? Not only were there no clubs, but commuting  made college seem more like high school (minus bullying and racial cliques).

This summer, I will be starting classes at a four-year college and I’ve reread The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, hoping that the quirk theory would be proven this time around. However, looking back on my community college experience, I realize that the quirk theory has already appeared in my life.

According to Robbins, the quirk theory has many traits. Here are the ones that have been validated for me in community college and outside it:

Curiosity, Love of Learning– I took an American Lit. course in 2011 that changed me as a student, poet, and person.  I’ll call the instructor of that course Professor X. In that course, we were going to study part of Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself”. I read the entire poem beforehand using a book from the library. I’d been writing free verse poetry since 8th grade and studying a very long poem like “Song of Myself” fascinated me. What was the big deal about it?  And so, I read the poem and subsequently fell in love with it.

When the time came to study it, I was excited! I remember exclaiming, “Ooh, it’s Song of Myself!” before we read it as a class. One girl looked at me like I was weird, but Professor X grinned widely. One year later, my love of studying poetry and literature earned me a student editor position for the campus art and literature magazine.

Creativity, Originality- During the fall of 2010, I got a poem published in the campus newspaper.

Passion- I started this blog in the fall of 2011 for myself and to inform others about the things I enjoyed and disliked so much. I expected only a dozen followers and ended up getting much more.

Resilience-  The fact that I made it to community college gives me a reason to be proud of myself. I survived the bullying and exclusion I experienced high school and have used what I’ve been through as inspiration for short stories and poetry. I’ve also been raising awareness about the impact of bullying through youth op-eds on this blog.

Authenticity, Self Awareness- I’ve said before that I never changed who I was in high school despite what I went through. I’m happy that I’m still myself today, even if I come across people who think I’m weird or too whatever. It is because I’ve stayed true to myself that I’ve had the other quirk theory traits admired.

I’m not going to say “it gets better.” To me, this statement implies that your entire life will always be full of happiness after high school. In fact, I’ve had to fight depression in community college. Although I’ve beaten it, I haven’t completely accepted myself yet. However, I’m still here and I’m slowly working toward my inner peace.

Instead of saying “It gets better”, I’m going to say, “It will be okay.” It may take some time to be that way. If you keep being yourself and be willing to live and share yourself with others, then you can make it.

Here is a song that keeps me strong; I hope it and my personal testimony can help others do the same.

Written by Serena Zola

May 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading?

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This week, I was happy to read an article that defends reading for pleasure. It was reprinted on the Huffington Post from Youth Communication. The article was written by a fifteen year old named Anthony Turner.

I wish I had been able to find someone like Anthony among my black peers when I was in high school.  Like Anthony, I was teased for enjoying reading in high school. Unlike him though, I couldn’t take pride in what I loved because I felt alone and that I didn’t have a place to belong. Fortunately, I managed to identify with literary characters like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Ponyboy Curtis from the teen fiction book The Outsiders.

In the article, Anthony mentions that black youth culture prizes guys who are athletes and musicians. A similar value is placed on black women. Instead of intelligence, black youth culture values women’s looks and how provocative they are.

While the same thing can be said of men and women of almost any race, Anthony mentions that black and Hispanic men have the lowest graduation rates. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 37 percent of Hispanic female students and 40 percent of black female students drop out of high school.

How sad is it that a good chunk of young minorities become nothing more than a statistic?

There are two things that cause reading to be disdained: the lack of a good family rearing and the influence of the mass media, especially entertainment media. A less minor reason is that the right book isn’t being read.

As a black female, I am grateful that my parents showed me the value of an education and instilled in me a love of reading. In fact, my mother told me that she read while I was still in her womb. Not sure if it’s true, but it paid off.

With the influence of the media, some minority youth are brainwashed into selling themselves short. If you don’t do what is considered cool or popular, then you are considered lame. Even worse, some minority youth are asked by their peers and others, “Why don’t you act more Hispanic?” or “Why don’t you act more black?”

I was asked the latter question indirectly. Despite the angst I felt with that and being teased, I rebelled against the status quo and kept reading for pleasure and being myself.

What most of my peers didn’t know is that I only liked reading for pleasure when I could choose the books I wanted to read. I hated reading the majority of books that were assigned to us in high school. Thanks to the library and a cool teacher who introduced me to teen fiction in middle school, I found material that I enjoyed.

Now in college, I have gained pride in being a bibliophile and share that pride with others by blogging. I hope Anthony Hall’s pride never fades and continues to grow.

If more young people like me and Anthony can develop the courage and resilience to become knowledgable and follow their passions no matter what, then this world will become smarter, more unique, and awesome.

Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Op-Ed: School Violence

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This week, three incidents of school violence are making me reminiscence about my own high school days: the Chicago school stabbing which just occurred today, the Ohio school shooting that occurred Monday, and the Joanna Ramos tragedy that occurred last Friday.

When I was in high school, it seems like every month people got into fights. At some point, our principal and assistant principal summoned the students to the cafeteria for a meeting.

The assistant principal said something along the lines of, “We’re so tired of hearing about these fights over “he said-she said” stuff.” By that, they’d meant that the fights were occurring over things that people said about someone.

The assistant principal then asked us, “Why couldn’t we talk out our problems?”

The response from most of my fellow classmates was loud muttering, as if the assistant principal had suggested something stupid.

At the time, I didn’t understand how these fights could occur or what people should do about it. That is, until I went through some troubling times of my own.

My high school years were half happy and half angst-ridden. Whenever the latter occurred, I would be either depressed or angry. Unlike some of my classmates though, I had  healthy ways to get rid of these feelings: reading, listening to music, and writing. Yet, there were days I wanted to explode and take out my feelings on others because it seemed like no one understood or cared about how I felt.

It is the feeling of being about to explode or wanting to explode, the lack of healthy outlets, and the lack of resources like counseling that causes  tragic school violence to occur.

When I was in high school, it seemed like all the school faculty cared about was passing tests. I remember them saying clearly over and over, “We gotta make AYP (academic yearly performance).” “We gotta get our test scores up, we gotta keep our test scores up.”

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Just because students have good grades, doesn’t mean they are all right inside. I made honor roll every year, yet I was still unhappy half the time I attended school. If it wasn’t for my healthy alternatives and outlets, I would have self-destructed and maybe hurt others around me.

That is why everyone around a student as well as the students themselves need to start doing the following:

  • Talk!  Teachers, parents, and students should ask or tell how a student or fellow peer is doing every day. While it might not be easy, doing so can prevent emotions being bottled up and exploding.
  • Find healthy outlets to blow off steam. Examples of this have already been given from my experience, but others can include sports and music. In some cases, talking can also be a good outlet.
  • Find resources if you need to get help. Schools should provide resources via the counseling office for things such as depression or stress management, but you can always look online or in your local library for additional material.

Written by Serena Zola

March 1, 2012 at 2:41 PM

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