As I walked up to the podium, I took a deep breath, ready to outshine the students of my 8th-grade class. As I was speaking, I overheard a small whisper between my classmates. “Is he dumb?” “No”, I thought. I was furious, but needed to stay calm. As I began my History presentation on Lewis and Clark, all I wanted to do was to escape the negative atmosphere that had consumed me since elementary school and let my peers know that I could achieve as much as anyone. I just needed extra time to process the question and formulate my answer.
Ever since I began learning to read, I struggled with speech delay, reading comprehension, and processing, which lead to negative stigmas about me. I was made fun of and ignored by other kids because I didn’t have the ability to express myself. I just wanted to play. People thought that I wasn’t as smart or as “elite” as they were, which made me question certain things about myself. I always wondered how I could become successful, often leaving me feeling frustrated and confused. I wasn’t as smart or talented as the other kids.
When I was in 5th grade, I was introduced to the “IEP” program, an Individualized Academic Plan for children with learning disabilities. I am currently still enrolled. IEP offered great services, but I was hesitant to receive the help and would argue with my parents because I did not want to accept the fact that I was educationally challenged. I hoped that middle school would be a turning point, but it just got worse.
That was until August 16, 2015.
On the first day of high school, I was anxious and ready to start a new chapter of my life. This was the moment I had been waiting for: to start fresh, rebuild myself, and be able to prove to those who doubted me that I could achieve my goals. I was determined that I could be as successful as my peers who didn’t suffer from reading comprehension or processing disability. As I walked through the unfamiliar hallways, I realized that this was my chance to prove people wrong, and I could do it as long as I worked hard and stayed focused.
It's hard to say that the presentation was the only turning point in my life. Sports have been an outlet for me, helping me release all my negative emotions, frustrations. It has helped me become a stronger individual. Being a captain of my Varsity football team, and one of the State winners in my weight division on the Varsity Wrestling team helped me see what my limits truly were. From then on, I was able to see what I was truly capable of achieving.
My coaches, tutors, and family have made a tremendous impact by never giving up on me and giving me the confidence to believe in myself. However, this experience changed my point of view on how kids can be cruel and how life can be for students who are bullied for something that is not their fault. We were born like this.
Four years have passed from that wretched day when my peers laughed during my presentation. To overcome the bullying, ridicule, and embarrassment, I simply asked myself “What type of person do I want to be?”. The answer was simple: I strived to be the successful and kind-hearted man who was not afraid of hard work and commitment. An example to all the other scared, confused boys and girls. It took free will, support from my peers, teachers, and family to achieve the necessary strength to overcome these obstacles. As I get older and more confident, I finally realize that no one has that power over you. With hard work, determination, never accepting “No” as an answer - I will become a stronger individual.