In my 5th blog post about our breakthrough, I mentioned how I told the students I was admitted into a mental hospital when I was younger. Sharing this definitely broke down boundaries between myself and the girls as I related to them in a way that some of my other group members might not (or just might not have shared). One of our younger students was asking about college before expressing she’ll probably never go.
“I’m failing all my classes,” she said, halfheartedly smiling. “I’m not smart enough to get into college.”
“Let me tell you a secret,” I said. “Before I was admitted to the hospital, my grades plummeted. After I got out I was still struggling and had to change schools. Now I’m about to graduate – early – with 3 honors distinctions. It’s not impossible. You can do it too.”
She got really excited and started telling me her plans to get into high school after she gets out and how she wants to pick up her grades and I listened, beaming with pride. She hasn’t been my student for long, and we haven’t even accomplished that much during our lessons, but any time one of the girls shared their goals or hopes for the future it filled me with joy. I know how hard it can be to imagine a future when you’re young and dealing with depression, and the fact she was going so far as making plans was beautiful.
I walked around the classroom and met with a few other students. Two of them called me over as I passed.
“When were you in the hospital?” they asked.
“April of 2012, so a little under 5 years,” I said, without skipping a beat. I had my personal statistics memorized. “The end of my sophomore year in high school.”
“And now you’re in college?” one of them asked.
“And now I’m graduating college,” I said, repeating my education bio that I’ve been saying and writing so much this past month. “A year early with 3 honors distinctions.”
The two looked at each other with disbelief. Then one of them (one of our newer students) muttered, “That actually makes me feel really hopeful.”
The other one, who had been with us since the beginning, said, “I know right. I had no idea.”
Working with adolescents in psychiatric care was something I had wanted to do since discharging from my own inpatient care. I didn’t think I would be able too, since there seemed to be a number of roadblocks in the way. I didn’t expect that I would at Desert Hills either, since this whole course had been built up to work with incarcerated populations. I know that some of the students had run-ins with the law and that the course in still focused on incarceration, but I finally got to do what I’d always wanted: work with girls dealing with mental health issues, unsure of their futures, unsure of their abilities, unsure of themselves, and show them that they can go on to be successful. I wanted to teach them to write, to express themselves, and to have hope in their talents. I’m so thankful I finally have the opportunity.