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The student voice of Detroit's High Schools.

Why fit in when you're meant to stand out

“Life isn’t about surviving the storm, it’s about dancing in the rain”

In September 2013, when I walked into Cass Tech High School as a new freshman, I felt a rush of memories. I was nervous and excited at the same time. See, for me, school was never easy, and sometimes the idea of going to school sent me into a state of sadness and anxiety. At the age of four I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

In my first elementary school I was teased and bullied often. My peers would purposely cause me to have an Autism meltdown by creating certain sounds and noises that would bother me and then they would laugh or tease me even more when I cried. They would make fun of me for talking to myself. They did not realize that I talked to myself because I felt alone, as well to process all the information that was in my head.

I was very happy when my mother finally sent me to a new elementary/middle school. This school was much better. At my new school I was introduced to classmates who were just like me. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. We understood each other and no one bullied anyone else. In addition, I had an aide to assist me through the rough moments of schooling. I learned to be social, to interact with people and how to control my autism triggers. I was able to flourish. I maintained a 3.0 GPA and I transitioned from a secluded autism spectrum disorder classroom to a regular classroom. It was a major change, but as my mother always taught me, always be extraordinary and not ordinary!

I attribute a great deal of my success, accolades, and achievements to my mother, grandmother and the rest of my family. My grandmother instilled in me my love for reading when I was only months old. My mother would read the newspaper and books to me. My mother taught me to never quit no matter how hard the task. She had no real understanding of autism when I was originally diagnosed, so she read every book she could get her hands on. My mother taught me how to deal with my autism triggers, and she taught me how to write using information she found in occupational therapy books. My mother is my inspiration to strive for greatness.

One of my biggest achievements was the day I received my acceptance letter to Cass Tech. No one had a clue I had taken the entrance test. Imagine my joy. My mother told me I would have to work hard, stay focused, and give 110 percent. She prepared me for what I was going to face. I became nervous, but I still wanted to attend Cass Tech.

My journey at Cass has truly been an awesome experience I have met some wonderful friends, teachers, and people to assist me along the way. Each year at Cass Tech I became less of the student with autism and more Karen. I came out my shell more and more. Ninth grade year was rough, but I learned that I could be a leader and a trendsetter, not a follower. In my Speech class, at first Ms. McCormick found it hard to teach me until my mother told her to push me and treat me like every other student (my mother did this often). Not only did I go from a low grade, I went to the top of the class and helped critique other students’ speeches.

In tenth grade I stepped out and ran for homecoming duchess. I didn’t win, but for me it was a major accomplishment. I was blooming into a beautiful flower and it was starting to show. By eleventh grade I was learning who I was and I was not being defined by my autism. I even went all the way to Michigan State University for a newspaper class trip. It was my first trip without my mom or my aide. Before I got on the bus my mother was like, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “I got this mom!”

Now here it is 2017 and I am a senior and getting ready to graduate. Senior year has been a blast. Since being at Cass I have maintained a 3.3 GPA or higher, I have been on the honor roll, I have won several awards, I have had several articles published in the newspaper as well as had two written about me. I won a Grammy my senior year! I am an example that labels do not define us, only our drive to be more than what others believe.

So what remains now? I have applied to several colleges, and my top choices are the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

As a child, I often heard my mother quote the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” As I embark on a new chapter in my life I reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of my journey as an adolescent with autism to the young woman who has created my own footprints in the sand.

I am excited about my future and I now know that I am more then capable to handle anything that comes my way. I have a very solid spiritual foundation and a wonderful support system. The sky is truly the limit for me. I am so thankful to my teachers, friends, family and my aide who have helped encourage me, pray for me and kept me on task. It has been one interesting journey and the best is yet to come. I used to ask myself why can’t I be like everyone else, until I realized that I was created for greatness. And when you are created for greatness, you will never fit in because you’re meant to stand out!


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