A speech given at a press conference for Initiative Petition 67:
"Sixth-grade me” never would have guessed that I would be here speaking in front of you guys today, that I would be enrolled in college, or even that I would be graduated from high school. “Sixth-grade me” couldn’t see the future through the dark fog that I was in. Outdoor School in sixth grade, while an amazing, fond memory that will stay with me for a lifetime, was not life-changing. It was a light in the dark room.
Over the next couple of years I made bad choices for reasons that no longer matter. I gave up school. I gave up on relationships with family and friends and my passion for singing. It was something so common in my neighborhood that it felt as easy as breathing. By the time I reached my junior year I had been released from school twice for absenteeism. The only reason I even came back was so that I could drop out on my own terms.
My adviser suggested that I go to Outdoor School Workshop to get away from everything.
That workshop was amazing. It was the first time in such a long time that I was actually happy. I didn’t really expect to get a week [as a Student Leader], but I did and that first week was heaven on the mountain. I was blown away by the love, the respect, the compliments, the thank-you notes. By the end of the week I couldn’t believe that I did it. Something so taxing, so alien, so rewarding, and I did it good enough they asked me to come back! That made me think maybe I could do more than I thought. Maybe there’s a whole world of opportunities out there and I just didn’t think I was good enough.
Being a Student Leader reminded me of who I was and it honed skills that I didn’t even know that I had. It reminded me how much I love being around other young people, how much I love singing and family-style meals. I found that I can improvise well enough that the twelve-year-olds around me don’t realize I have no idea what’s going on. I found out I have the ability to teach, to facilitate. And with those skills I survived my senior speech, my graduation speech, my first two college speeches, and now I’m surviving this one! [laughter]
I have facilitated focus groups, club meetings, and later tonight a forum on being mixed race, and I will perform my first slam poem. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by how far I’ve come in just two short years. So the point of this is to express to you that Outdoor School is important. It’s important to me, to a host of my friends, to our education system, and to our state. It gives sixth-graders a light to carry them through the dark years of middle school. It gives high school students the opportunity to find out what it means to be looked up to. And it gives everyone who passes through the program the opportunity to be loved truly for who you are and not just what you have to offer. Thank you.