At elementary school, as our D.A.R.E teacher was teaching the kids how to say no to drugs, he asked me to come up in front of the class and pretend like I had drugs and I was supposed to offer him a cigarette. He was the one that played the good guy and said no to drugs. I was really embarrassed he made me act that out. I knew he thought I was a bad kid because I lived on the nearby ranch and he had repeated many of the untrue and biased things that had been on the news. As a kid in 5th grade, I felt really bad about it. At our D.A.R.E. graduation, with the entire 5th grade and our parents, he asked me to get up and read the essay I wrote in my D.A.R.E. book. I felt like he put me on spot on purpose.
Throughout 1998-1999, we had news cameras parked on the side of the freeway in front of our house pretty often. One time, my sister and I (about 4th-5th graders) were walking home from the bus stop and we turned around and noticed there were big cameras pointed right at us. That footage of the back of us walking was featured on 20/20. This led to a lot of bullying from other students.
In 6-8 grade, me and my brother would often get business cards or brochures left in our locker about child abuse information and numbers to call if we ever needed help. I had one kid that asked me if I was a polygamist, and the teacher said, well, are you? I told them no I was still single. I tried to joke around and play it off but it was extremely uncomfortable. There were a lot of times we would be riding on the bus and the news would be on the radio talking about people we knew or polygamy. I felt like the teachers and even the bus driver didn't realize they were fostering an environment where we couldn't feel included.
Comments weren't only made by the students, but also by teachers and counselors. Some people would make comments about me being really shy and call me a loner or someone that doesn't like to be around a lot of people. That actually wasn't the case. It felt like it was everyone else that didn't want me included. One time a counselor came into our classroom for a 'routine' discussion where they talked about how to reach out for help if we ever felt like we weren't treated right at home. This seemed to happen in just my class though but I can't be sure.
At this point, I began letting it all get to me and my grades began to drop and I lost interest in school. I asked my dad if I can quit school. I had only gone up to the 8th grade, but I didn't want to go back. My dad really didn't want me to quit altogether so he let me move to Salt Lake and helped me study for the placement test at SLCC and I applied there. I hadn't been going long when I got a call from the administration and wanted to set up a meeting. They said I was too young to go to college and told me I couldn't go anymore. I needed to get my high school diploma first. I pointed out that their website said they didn't discriminate against age, and she just rolled her eyes at me. The issues with administration spanned a couple of semesters. Eventually my dad helped me find Penn Foster as an alternative.
I think I had only missed two semesters when I went back to the administrator at SLCC and showed her my diploma. She was pretty surprised and didn't believe it was real at first. After that I continued taking classes. Since she had told me I couldn't go back to school the year before, I did exactly what she told me. I assumed she would pull the classes off but didn't and it showed those grades as really low since I missed the end of the semester, and this really messed up my GPA. I had to file appeals to get this taken care of and redo a few classes. It was a real mess and wasted a lot of time and still my GPA does not reflect what it would've been. They didn't refund those classes either. I had paid it all out of pocket and didn't even know about financial aid. I was never able to finish the degree from SLCC and that has affected me a lot in my professional career.
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