disconnection in the education system
jessica, 17, metro region
In middle school, my home life was unstable. When my mom’s boyfriend left, it broke up the family I had thought we were forming. It made me not care about being a better person. I struggled to keep my grades up in school and often ditched. I failed many classes and fell behind. At one point in high school, I was getting in trouble. I felt unsafe in my community so I picked up a knife. When it was discovered at school, I was expelled for a short time, making me fall behind even more. The dean of students fought for me and I got another chance. It was difficult because many kids knew why I was expelled so they labelled me as someone dangerous. I was put on probation for six months and had to go to court.
I feel this was my turning point because my probation officer genuinely cared about me. I started focusing more on school and getting my grades up to make my mom feel proud. My sophomore year, I was also mentored by an acting detective. We formed a connection and he earned my trust. He told me I had potential and more to offer. He acted like a father figure to me. I focused on doing something positive. I ended up moving to another school because of my bad grades to get my credits faster.
It was hard to adapt to that school because I was only going twice a week. Many of the tutors and teachers are busy, so I didn’t have the chance to get the help I needed. I’m currently enrolling in Access to help me, but I had to un-enroll in school to enroll in Access. I’ve been out of school for two months. I’m currently only involved in Youth Voice, a program that’s been going on since 2008 for youth ages 11–22 who either feel passionate about speaking up about the needs of their community, or they want to be a part of something.
I hadn’t had anything very consistent in my life until Youth Voices. I felt I didn’t have a purpose in life and that I wasn’t doing anything good, but knowing I can help and inspire the friends I used to hang out with is rewarding. Through Youth Voice, we’ve done a lot of presentations. The first was at San Diego Workforce Partnership advocating against human trafficking. We did work researching statistics and released papers.
When I presented, I didn’t expect anything to come out of it. Only a month later, I received a call letting me know the number I provided helped a friend get out of being trafficked. Knowing I helped someone’s life for the better motivated me to keep presenting. We even presented to the Gang Commission about intervention and how gangs are involved in human trafficking. We helped change policies at the Gang Commission to include human trafficking as a standing item in every meeting.
Because of my experiences growing up witnessing domestic violence and not having anyone to go to for help, trauma informed care is very important to me. I’ve witnessed what my friends have been through and I know how much those events caused pain and why they make the life choices they do. I want kids to receive genuine help from caring adults. I want to go into law enforcement and criminal justice to become a probation officer. I know having a probation officer who cares and guides youths on the right path can make a difference. I don’t have anyone to help me with school or financial aid, so I’m doing it on my own. To become a probation officer, I need to go through school. I use this as motivation to keep going forward so I can go to college and achieve what I want to do. I’m really excited about my future.