With the support of CIS, our students stay in school, graduate and go on to bright futures. They all have a story about their journey to who they are today. Alumna Mary shares hers.
I first entered the United States around the age of six, and at such a young age, I was already exposed to what it felt like to be an immigrant. My parents realized that it was too much for me to bear, and I returned to my hometown in Ghana, West Africa, with my mother. However, as time passed, the education I was receiving in Ghana was not enough, therefore I moved back to the United States in order to gain better educational opportunities. During my high school career, I was constantly teased for having hairy legs or for being a nerd or for speaking with a funny accent. Peers asked me stereotypical questions such as "Did I live in a hut" and "Did I walk my pet monkey before attending school"? Overall, my freshman year was filled with isolation and a lack of confidence.
There was a club known as "Speak Life" that was affiliated with Communities In Schools located in my school's media center. Their main goal was to help students think positively both in life and in school. Initially I did not want to join. My excuse was that I was already involved in a plethora of clubs, even though the truth was that I did not see the need for such a club. Fortunately, a friend of mine forced me to join with her, so I became a member. I then met the site coordinator for CIS of Marietta/Cobb County, Ms. Kimberly Chinn.
Ms. Chinn became and is still my mother in high school. She helped me blossom from the shy freshman, to a confident, outspoken young lady even after I graduated. She stayed extra hours whenever I would need a ride home after my extracurricular activities, or even if I needed a place to sit and pass time. Senior year was one of my biggest challenges. Considering the fact that I am an immigrant, I did not qualify for financial aid or certain privileges that U.S citizens enjoyed. The stress of paying for college began to take its toll on me because I was afraid I would not be accepted into any of the schools I applied to. However, I knew I could always run to Ms. Chinn for advice or just as a source of comfort. One piece of advice that I will never forget is when Ms. Chinn told me to "Let them tell you no." These words stuck with me as I continued the college process, especially in applying to my number one choice, St. John's University. With this new found energy, I was accepted into every school I applied to, including St. John's.
Although I was accepted into these schools, I still was unable to attend due to costs. I received scholarships, but they were still not enough for someone paying their tuition out of pocket. Presently, I am working for a year in the hopes of attending the school of my dreams next year. Aside from my job, in my spare time I love to sing and read. I also try to catch up on my favorite series on Netflix whenever I can. It is disappointing seeing fellow classmates moving into their dorms and starting the next chapter of their lives while I am at home. But I am proud of all of my accomplishments, in and out of high school.
I am honored to be a member of CIS because without it, I would probably be depressed, fighting my battles on my own. For anyone who is struggling either in life or with being a leader, my advice is to "Let them tell you no." Circumstances do not always go our way, but never give up, until you have been told no. Even when you have been told no, take a different route. There is always a YES somewhere. CIS is an outstanding way for young adults such as myself to realize that we are not alone in anything that we decide to do. It provides brilliant people who dedicate their time to help others. And brilliant people produce brilliant generations.