When I first got them, they were clean and perfect. But now as I entered my first year of high school, they were badly scuffed. The problem was, they were my only pair of shoes, so there was nothing I could do. I liked the fact that at Bassick we had to wear a uniform; it made it simple for me. But I hated that we could wear whatever shoes we wanted. That gave people a reason to check them out. I knew my shoes were a bit messed up, but I hoped, “Maybe nobody will notice.” I was wrong. Sure enough, first class of the day, I was doing my work and out of the corner of my eye, I saw three students pointing at them and saying, “Why would she come out like that; she never looking right.” Soon they got other people to look. And all the while, I sat there pretending I didn’t know what they were talking about. Second block it continued. Then an interesting thing happened. When Shakira pointed at my shoes and asked Kolbe, “Would you wear them?” he said, “I would rock them, they poppin.” I never knew whether he was being sarcastic or had just decided, unlike everybody else, not to be mean. Either way, it shut everybody up. That happened because he put himself in my shoes.

That has had me thinking ever since. Nine times out of ten, if you don’t look or act the way someone expects or wants you to, they will point that out, then talk about it when you leave. Little do they know, that person might go home crying because his or her family can’t afford shoes.

It’s all part of not “judging a book by its cover,” because you never know what’s going on with someone’s life.

In everyone’s eyes, I’m just a shy and quiet girl with a soft voice. But don’t be fooled by this pretty face. When I’m outside of school. I’m VERY different. Outside of school I talk and laugh A LOT! But I am an in-house type of person. And I love to read everything from the Bluford series to mysteries to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. That’s where I first learned, literally, not to judge a book by its cover. And how much people really are the same. Everyone goes through problems because nobody’s life is perfect. Just because people don’t speak of problems going on in their lives, that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

People find it surprising that I don’t like ice cream… at all. I don’t like cake either, especially chocolate, I hate chocolate.

Okay, I admit, sports aren’t really my thing. Usually when I do play any sport, it’s basketball, and just for fun, just to get out and do something. But baseball? Worst sport ever! So you can see why the latest sneakers really aren’t my thing.

And okay, I do admit, I am shy, but I’m working on it. It’s all a part of my building my self-esteem. When you feel confident, you can be confident.

My freshman year at Bassick High School was terrible and the years before were just as bad. Through my years of being bullied, I never had anyone there for me. Not a teacher, staff member, social worker or even a friend. Then I transferred to Stamford Academy.

At first, same thing: just about everyone knew each other and I knew no one. This one boy always talked bad about me. I hated it. I had to get my classes switched because of it. But from the beginning, for the first time ever, I had support from the entire Stamford Academy staff. My favorite class is math; it makes me think. It’s frustrating, which I actually find that the best part about it. I like how at first I don’t understand what I’m doing or how to do it, but eventually I get it and don’t want to stop. I also like English. I like expressing myself, I could write for days.

If I were to pick a turning point, here is what my advocate Brandon Benoit told me when some of the students were making their remarks. “When you leave, you will never see any of these people. So who cares about what they say, they won’t be paying for your college tuition.” This was true.

But here’s who I will miss when I graduate… Ari Meadows’s great sense of humor and words of wisdom. Mr. Paul keeping the halls in order and his friendly smile. Mr. Hosny’s always making me laugh and pushing me to do well in math. Ms. Cote and her warms hugs. For sure, Mrs. Kennedy, but I won’t miss her art class. I hate art. Ms. Weller and her amazing “rock on with your bad self” joyful personality. She was there for me from Day 1, and helped me through it all. I wish I could do something for her to return the favor. She’s everything! Most students don’t like Mr. Williams because he’s the principal and he of course does his job. I’ve grown very fond of him. He’s a great man and has a great personality. Outstanding principal. Now this year, we have a new staff member…. Mr. Whitley. He’s great and very funny. He’s one of the top people I can go to if and when I need to talk and I always feel rejuvenated. Last but not least, there’s Ms. Latulippe. I’m smiling just thinking about her. She’s more than just an English teacher, a sister and a staff member… she’s a leader and a FRIEND! Maybe, one day in the future we’ll sit on a couch and have a glass of wine. All have helped me quietly and confidently grow into myself.

In the future, after I finish college – it just seems so natural – I plan to be a therapist. I know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes, especially if they’re terrible white Adidas. Everyone should have someone to talk to and extend a helping hand. I want to be that person.

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