I wasn’t supposed to be here.
The moment I was born was the beginning of a six week battle to stay alive. Within hours of my first breath, I was transferred to UCSF Children's Hospital where I was immediately placed on a heart and lung machine. While in intensive care, a team of doctors took ten days to figure out what was wrong with my heart. Without the heart and lung machine, my heart was unable to pump blood correctly, and was not providing my body enough oxygenated blood to stay alive. The doctors weren’t certain of what was causing my heart to behave as it was. Once they agreed on a theory as to why, they performed experimental open heart surgery. Although the eight-hour surgery was successful, I suffered complications on the operating table that have presented emotional, physical and academic challenges. Throughout my life, I have continuously needed to address and overcome these challenges.
Up until the third grade, I was one of the happiest kids on the planet. In every photo of me at that time, a light of pure joy was beaming through my blissful smile. School had gone very well for me up until this point. My grades were good, I had an active social life, and I had the self-confidence one would expect in a supported, loved, and successful eight year old. Then everything changed.
In the third grade, I began to experience a series of challenging academic struggles. As teachers moved through content, I was left behind struggling. I saw my peers racing through the work while I worked at my own pace. I didn’t realize I learned differently from my peers. I always needed more detail to understand the concepts and more time to get my thoughts together to either create a great project, write an essay, or simply finish a homework assignment. I began to hate school. In class, I didn’t receive the guidance I needed and I began to receive varied grades. In the fourth grade I began to lose my confidence. I did not feel accepted or included in a public school setting, and for the first time I was genuinely unhappy.
It was time for a change. My parents and I began searching for a place that provided a learning environment that would allow me to once again be successful academically. We explored many options. Eventually, we found RHP and Renaissance. Even though I was only in fourth grade, I knew in my first visit that this was the school for me. I could see that many students learned differently, just like me. Students of all different abilities totally accepted one another. The faculty had an individual plan to teach every student how they learned and how to be successful. They prepared students to be self-sufficient in traditional college learning environments and beyond.
To change schools meant my life would change. I would need to commit to a different environment and educational model. I would have to give up friendships and the familiarity of my local school system. I would have to go to a new school with the fear of the unknown. Even though I knew all of this would be a huge change, deep down inside I knew it was the right decision for me.
Even at 10 years old, I realized I had an opportunity to start fresh at RHP/Ren. During my fifth grade year I could see seniors graduating and heading off to universities. Many of these graduating seniors had started at my age under similar circumstances. This inspired me, so I consciously decided to commit, and take full advantage of what RHP/Ren and the school’s community had to offer.
The first goal I set was to achieve consistently excellent grades. I leveraged all the support resources and study programs to build disciplined study habits. I committed myself to the required work, and made personal sacrifices to achieve my goals. Once I became settled and found my academic rhythm, I began to layer on extracurricular activities, friendships, and sports. I was able to balance achieving an excellent GPA, help lead and participate in student government, school business and social activities, external service work, and various athletic teams. While expanding into these areas, I began to re-build my self-confidence, independence, and self-sufficiency. I continue to be challenged every day academically and otherwise. Now I look forward to these challenges. I have taught myself how to work within my skills and find successes in most anything to which I commit myself. Most importantly, I have discovered who I am and what is meaningful to me. I have been the beneficiary of dedication, help and support from my family and my school community. These values and aspects of my life are critically important to me, and I will protect and carry them forward.