I used to live in a rural area. I went to a small school. It was a big culture shock to relocate to Portland. At the time, my family was experiencing homelessness. We were living in a car. I was never in one school for more than a few weeks or months. Always moving around. Always big schools. Lots of students. I got good at changing up my friend group.
The switch to middle school was hard. I was shy with the teachers. I couldn’t get the help I needed. I seemed happy go lucky, but I wasn’t. There was stuff going on outside school. I had to see therapists – it was a DHS situation. At that point, I hung out mostly with older kids. I was making bad choices. Living in a risky place.
My older sister went to Open. I heard good things. I had to wait until 7th grade to get in. For the first time in my life, the teachers had been through similar life experiences. They could connect with me because of that. I saw how their struggles did not stop them from making it, and that showed me a legit way out of trouble. Their investment in me was bigger than academics. They’re not just here to teach, or to “throw a book” at students, but to be invested in us all the way.
After I joined Open, I still had difficulties. But they never judged me when I messed up. Instead, they encouraged me even more. They saw I could be a better me. At first, I took advantage of the fact that they’d always be there for me. In the beginning of 8th grade I lost my spot at Open because of some of my choices.
Losing my spot was the worst thing. The first day I went back to public school, they were teaching something I’d never seen. The teacher said “Just wait it out ‘til next semester.” So I did. The next semester was new stuff, but it was all cumulative and so it still tripped me up. It felt like the teachers were saying “Here’s the material – it’s not my issue whether you get it.”
The teachers at Open stayed in touch with me when I was back at public school. They helped me see this as a learning experience, and encouraged me to try again. I felt like they really believed in me. Then I got my spot back at Open, and this time it worked. That was what I needed to become a part of the community.
I started going to school for real. I got good grades. I even graduated early. To top it all off, I won a scholarship to Linfield College. I’m planning right now on a bachelor’s in biology or psychology. My big dream is to become an OB/GYN. I want to work at a birthing center.
Part of that decision came out of a college success class at Open. For the first time, they got me thinking about what I would love to do, which careers would be “not work” to me. I have personal experience of family members suffering loss from childbearing. It means something to me to be able to help others get through the childbearing process. A career like that would be meaningful.