“It took some time to realize I could learn.”

Since I was a kid I have always wanted to be in the military. My mother was an MP in the U.S. Army and I wanted very much to follow in her footsteps. I knew that I had to be “smart” to join the army, but I was not one of “those kids” in school.

I started having trouble in the first grade. My lack of understanding resulted in me being put in special ed classes and taking Adderall. I was told I was “learning disabled” and that I could not learn as fast as “normal”. I was told that the drug would help me focus.

The dose of Adderall slowly doubled by the time I was in high school. By 10th grade I came off the drug as I think the insurance ran out. Coming off the drug was hard. Years of Adderall use left me feeling unconscious, disoriented, numb. I felt like a robot and I could not sleep. I could not “think” or do simple tasks. I forgot simple assignments and sometimes I had to ask classmates what class I was supposed to go to as I would forget. My mother also said that my behavior became somewhat violent during this time.

I got horrible grades in Algebra 1 but somehow passed with a “B”. My geometry teacher would give work and say that it did not matter if the answers were correct, we’d get a high grade if we tried. I ended up failing geometry completely.

I had decent grades in science and reading. I ended up handling my reading on my own. I read the King James Bible and ended up improving my spelling, grammar and pronunciation. However, because of my label, I was not allowed in regular classes. This really upset me.

My classmates started to drop out and I thought this was my only solution too (which would suck as it would affect my military status-I could still join the army, but as a drop-out I would not have many opportunities.) Honestly, even if I got a GED, it still would not advance me in the military.

My mother was really worried about me because I had basically given up. I had no idea that she was checking out other schools. She found HELP Miami, and told me about it. I was told that they did not “believe” the learning disability labels, but felt that with good study habits one could overcome academic confusions. I toured the school and was accepted to start in 11th grade.

I remember my first week of school when I tested out at a 4th grade level in math. I started to explain to the director that I had a learning disability and how impossible math was for me. She responded by telling me that I COULD learn math and then she asked me what the word “math” meant. (And THAT started about 6 weeks of going over math basics with the director.)

There is a word in Greek-Metanoia. It appears in the New Testament and basically means to “change one’s mind.” While it took some time to realize that I could learn, I feel that I have achieved “metanoia” at HELP Miami. Not only am I taking standard high school classes, I was voted class president and I passed Algebra 2.

I will graduate with a standard diploma.

I feel for the first time I was actually receiving information. Nancy is an analytical, persistent, determined, focused and creative teacher. I consider her a goddess! First she gave me complete attention in math and insisted that I get through everything-even though at times I felt this impossible. She did not give up.

The books we read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Lord of the Flies, The 5000 Year Leap and so on were somewhat life changing. We learned what the words meant and as a group engaged upon many discussions. Everyone participated-not because we were forced to but because we wanted to.

I enjoyed debate class and government class as well. I felt encouraged to express my views of what is right and what is wrong. (This included introducing my fellow students to my idol-Johnny Cash.)

There is a sense of involvement at HELP Miami. A sense of community. There is teamwork between the students and staff. A sense that someone truly cares about you and what you want to do.

School should not be only about assigning packets for homework or labeling students. I am experiencing what a REAL SCHOOL should be. And I am a better person because of it.

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