I was in 10th grade when I looked my high school guidance counselor right in the eye and said firmly, “I’m going to college.” She looked a bit surprised, fumbled for a moment, and said, “Well, okay then,” as she shifted gears in the conversation.
I was in a meeting with her and my parents to discuss my future in school. There were two tracks you could take at my high school—the one leading to what was called an “advanced diploma” (required for college admittance) and one called the “standard diploma” (the track that led straight into a career after high school).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these diplomas, but my guidance counselor was pushing me to the standard diploma because she didn’t think I was capable of earning an advanced diploma or going to college. That irked me.
I Would Be Going to College
I stood up for myself in that meeting and my parents later told me that they were incredibly proud when I told the counselor in no uncertain terms that I would be going to college. There was a reason I had the confidence to stand up for myself in that meeting: Even if my counselor didn’t believe in me, other people did.
All throughout my childhood my parents pushed me to try my very best and go for my dreams. They gave me and my siblings every opportunity they could for us to be successful and opened the door to a wide array of possibilities. I knew there was a place just for me to fill.
School wasn’t always easy for me, though. I struggled to make decent grades and found myself increasingly frustrated all the way through middle and early high school. After being tested, I discovered I had a small learning difference. My confidence took quite a hit as differences aren’t really acceptable to other teens. As a result, I started spending an hour a day with a teacher who helped me figure out how I learned best, and how to utilize that learning style in a regular classroom setting. She told me I was smart and had potential to do something great. She believed in me and I believed her.
I finished high school strong and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in three years. Everything in me wanted to send a photo of my college diploma to that guidance counselor…I didn’t.
Now It’s My Turn to Fight for Others
I have two beautiful and amazing children of my own and now my role is to be the person who believes in them and makes sure they know that this world is full of possibility and opportunity and those things aren’t just for other people…it’s for them too!
We get to be our children’s greatest advocate. We have to fight for our children and their right to be successful in school and in life. We have to remember that it’s our job to be sure they aren’t slipping through the cracks. We have to step in when things aren’t right and say to systems and people who might hold them back or bring them down, “Nope. Not on my watch. Do better.”
Every child needs to be given the opportunity to shine. When things get hard we need to cheer them on and encourage them. When they fail (and they will, because we all do) we need to offer a safe place to land and sort it out before we make them get back on the horse. And they need to hear the stories of people like Albert Einstein who was told as a child he’d never amount to much but whose mother refused to believe that. Anyone who underestimates any child is wrong.
Because what I really wish that guidance counselor had done in that meeting was ask and listen more than she talked. I wish she had looked me in the eye and said, “Lauren, what are your dreams and goals for the future? Tell me what you hope for and I’ll work along side you to show the path to get there.” Thankfully I had parents and teachers who did just that.
And now that’s what I’ll do with my children.
I will stand in the belief gap of what other people think my children can achieve and what they actually can. Because I believe in them.