7:00 a.m. Waking up as an 8-year-old, I got out of bed and proceeded to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
The entire morning I had chills throughout my spine at the thought of going to school. It had been a rough year. The primary flaw of P.S. 111X is that when a student is a victim of harassment or bullying, the faculty members will let it happen and/or pretend like nothing even happened at all.
This was the story of my elementary and middle school years. Everyone was bigger, taller and stronger than me, at least that’s what it seemed like.
I was always the oddball out, the shy kid who was afraid of even the slightest confrontation.
There were several incidents where my fellow peers would take advantage of my passive persona, especially at lunchtime. I would get shoved around, my personal belongings would get stolen from me, and even when the chaperones and faculty members saw the dreaded sadness and fear in my eyes, no action was taken whatsoever. It was a corrupted system, and this made me terrified to go to school every single day. It’s as if I was forced to face my fears on a daily basis.
I couldn’t have been happier to graduate from P.S. 111X. Fast forward to middle school at M.S. 180, and truthfully there wasn’t much of a change in the way that faculty and staff handled acts of bullying from the way they did in elementary school. At this point I felt like my teachers were out to get me, as horrifying as it sounds.
Getting tormented all the time caused my academic performance to suffer. My teachers would tell me forcefully to get it together, ignoring the underlying cause of my poor performance.
After my experiences in elementary and middle school, it was no secret to me that the schools in the Bronx were in dire need of a change. But as a shy little boy, my voice was unheard.
Throughout my years at P.S. 111X and M.S. 180, my mother was continuously getting ill, constantly getting admitted into the hospital as if it was her day job. Towards the middle of my seventh grade year, my mother was admitted into the hospital long term. As a result, my aunt, who lives in Orange County, New York, made the generous gesture to take me in her care until my mother was released from the hospital.
This was all very sudden for me, and I did not know what to expect from life in upstate New York. I was especially nervous about school, because I knew I would have to start all over again with meeting new people and getting acquainted.
I actually started school the day after I arrived and my first day experience at Cornwall Central High School is one of my favorite stories to tell because it involves me entering a new realm of reality. The first day I went there was a field trip to a show back in New York City.
I will never forget when I first boarded the school bus. As soon as I entered the aisle, all the students were waving and shouting at me like, “Hey, sit here! Sit here!” Literally almost everyone on the bus was shouting at me in excitement, like I was a trending pop artist making a surprise visit to the school. I was instantly making friends, and the faculty was extremely welcoming.
This was a culture shock at its finest. It was a complete flip from my days going to school in the Bronx, in regards to how teachers and other faculty looked out for the students, but most importantly, how everyone treated each other. It was the kind of change I needed, the kind of change that could erase my fears of going to school and enable me to perform at my absolute best.
If only P.S. 111X and M.S. 180 would use Cornwall Central High School as a template for change as well.