By Alex Paul, He/Him, Open School East 2022 Graduate
I was picked on the entire time I was in middle school. It got so bad that I skipped class to avoid the bullying and changed buses to get away from students who would jump me and throw books at me. When I would go to teachers for help, nothing would happen.
At first, I didn’t want to go to Open School East because I heard it was a school for bad kids. Now I know I wasn’t bad, but just in a bad place. When I first started here, I thought really low of myself. I didn’t talk to anyone, was really shy, and had a hard time making friends because of it. Unlike my previous schools, the teachers and staff actually cared and helped me when I got picked on. With this support, I eventually made some amazing friends and became more confident.
These same friends and teachers supported me when I came out as transgender. The very first people I told were at school. At our freshman camp, I told Ethan, our school counselor, that I wanted to start using the name Alex. He encouraged me to tell everyone at camp. He helped me so much and got me out of my comfort zone. I actually performed at the camp’s talent show!
This past January, my mom passed away from a heart attack and stroke. None of my siblings have graduated from high school before, so my mom always told me how much she wanted me to graduate. After she passed, I kept reminding myself of this and used it as motivation to graduate and work hard in school. The school also really helped me during this time. They gave me two weeks to just be there and not have anything to do. Most schools wouldn’t do that. Because of my mom’s words and our school’s support, I am graduating on time with A’s and B’s.
I am here today because I don’t feel judged at school. I used to not talk to people about what was going on because they would judge me. Now, I am not scared to share what I feel. If I was having a really bad day, Ethan would let me rant and get everything out. Ethan is an amazing counselor. He’s met with my family and made safety plans because he was worried about me.
Cassie, my Advocate, is so sweet. I could talk to her about anything. She is like a sister or cousin to me. She doesn’t judge. She’s helped me with my resume and asks me if I am ok. You don’t get that a lot with teachers.
When I first came to Open School East, I wasn’t comfortable being myself and didn’t believe I could graduate. This Saturday, I will show up as myself to graduation.
For future Open School students and staff, I want to tell you to not be scared to be yourself. It honestly feels really good to be you and it’s a very supportive community, so don’t be scared to do you!