It was different now. The setting had shifted, and suddenly I’d started to regret my wish to graduate and leave the school that I’d attended for eight years. I remember sitting in my eighth grade classroom a week before graduation. I remember the sinking feeling in my heart when it all hit me. It was one week before graduation. With a total of over 35 students – people I’d grown up with. People that acted like another family. They were the kids I’d gotten into numerous fights with, and created numerous wonderful memories with. It had all changed.
No more Mrs. Maio, Mr. Sickora, Ms. Cruz, or Mr. Hinchen. No more praying The Lord’s Prayer at 9:00 AM. No more of the same, cozy Catholic school building that had welcomed me for the past eight years. No more of that. No more. It hurts to think about the painful experience of leaving the ones you love and spent years with. It hurts to think about leaving the people you’ve built a portion of your life around: your closest friends and your worst enemies.
That was then and this is now. Now, I attend a unique public school: Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH. It’s a unique project that’s supported by several (quite famous) groups like IBM, CUNY, and New York City College of Technology. You may have heard of them…or not. Hopefully you have, though. It’d be okay if you hadn’t, but that’s what we have the Internet for. Regardless, P-TECH is in its first year. We’re taking our baby steps. I guess you can say it’s the “make-it-or-break-it” year because if we screw up our performance, any company as big as IBM wouldn’t like to support us any longer. So the pressure is on teachers and students to do well.
The main goal for everyone here is to earn that Associate’s Degree, and with that, P-TECH comes with two free years of college. Make it or break it. In my eyes, there’s no I’ll try. There’s only do or don’t. I was taught as a child to do my very best. If my very best was an 80, I’d be proud that I reached the highest I could. However, it doesn’t hurt to aim higher, and that’s what I’m going to do in this school. It’s exactly what I’ve been doing all along. Of course, I’ve had more experiences seeing ugly numbers as grades on my paper, but that grade is a number and it could never define me. It could never tell me that I wasn’t smart enough to pass. The only thing it can tell me is that I wasn’t ready to move on from that topic we were tested on and I needed to work on it. I was taught that as a child, and my new teachers are re-teaching me that same attitude towards a grade.
My teachers are my guides. They’ve always been my guides – then and now. They teach me the things I need to know, and they help me shed the academic behaviors I need to let go. The teachers here in P-TECH were “hand-picked,” as I remember our current principal, Mr. Davis, stated during an orientation. Throughout this year, it didn’t take much effort to see why he picked them. They are all fantastic. They are funny. They teach very well, and I think they understand where we’re coming from with our troubles. What I like about them is that they work together quite well so everyone in school is on the same page. I’m happy about that. The teachers are encouraging – they’re not the teachers that give up and say “that student is hopeless.” Not once have I ever heard one of them say that, and not once have they ever portrayed the actions that they would ever think that.
You know, the students aren’t half bad. I’m not going to lie. There are those rambunctious students, but what school doesn’t have those? Even the tip-top universities are sure to have those trouble makers. It’s just natural. The majority of students here are friendly. We have a diverse student body from various cultures. We get into scats, they get settled, and that’s it. So far, everything’s okay. Everyone’s just…okay. And again, I’m happy about that. I’ll take a deep breath and remember every one of their faces. I’ll walk into school every day and smile, because now they’re the new faces that are going to eventually become old, familiar friends (or enemies, you never know – just trying to stay true).
It’s wrong for me to say everything’s alright. I miss my old school, my old teachers, and my old friends. It’s hard to pretend like I don’t miss them. Why would I even try to pretend like that? It’s strange to look up at the clock so see 9:00 AM, and not say a prayer. The feeling wears off after a while, I suppose. It’s just so… strange. I don’t like change, and the only time I do like it is when I see something wrong in a picture. However, that’s something everyone – even I – needs to get used to. With time comes reality, and with reality comes change. Reality holds gifts for everyone – gifts that we don’t even realize we’re opening. Who knew that walking into Pathway in Technology Early College High School’s orientation was the equivalent of opening life’s next present? Nonetheless, the time is now. It’s time to move on with life.
Brigette Luboa is Student Body President at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, New York.