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Who Asked Us? Finding Motivation

New America Media, Commentary, Devin White Posted: Aug 28, 2009

Editor's Note: Devin White is a senior at Far West High School in Oakland, Calif.

Back in middle school, I was lazy. I got Bs and Cs, with the occasional A, and I failed algebra just like everyone else. The only thing I wanted to do was to go home and play video games.

During my eighth-grade graduation ceremony, all the white kids were exalted on stage for their academic excellence and community service. There were no black role models on stage for me to look up to. I wanted to be recognized, too, but I realized I had no talents or skills. There was nothing special to distinguish me from any other black youth in Oakland.

I was still unmotivated when I entered high school. There were only six teachers and the high school I attended was really ghetto. In fact, it was so bad that after my freshman year it got closed down.
And so, midway through my freshman year, I transferred to Far West High School. Its fairly small, and all the buildings are portables. The schools demographic was pretty much the same as the last one, mostly black, but these were a different brand of blacks. The environment was better and I could focus more. I got a little better that year, and became a slightly above-average student, getting a fair amount of As throughout the year.

Before I transferred to Far West, I took a creative writing class in ninth grade in which the teacher, Ms. Williams, said I had good writing skills. I didnt believe her. I thought she was praising my writing just so I would stop being lazy. But I didn't want to stop being lazy. I saw no reason to work hard.
The next year, in tenth grade, I took a poetry class. Once again, the teacher told me I was a good writer. It was then that I started to consider that I might actually be good at writing. These writing classes made me to realize that I wasnt performing up to my true potential in school.

I realized I needed to take my education more seriously. Almost all of the successful people I knew had sought out education. I wasnt on track to become successful. I was on track to become a fat, lazy slob. Things had to change.

I went into my sophomore year wanting to prove to myself that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I set a goal to get a 4.0 GPA for the first grading period. I worked really hard and became extremely focused and determined. When report card time rolled around, my efforts were rewarded with a 4.2 GPA!

It felt good to accomplish my academic goal. I decided to try to maintain a 4.2 GPA throughout the entire year. Why get good grades only once? Now I wanted to pursue bigger dreams and aspirations.
To maintain good grades, I improved my study habits. I became organized. I set aside time to do my homework. If I had weaknesses with any class material, I identified them and worked hard to improve them. I went to teachers for help and guidance. Teachers, who I think are the best people on this earth, are resources I never thought to utilize during my earlier schooling years.

My teachers said good things about me, and it felt rewarding to have them on my side. My parents were proud and gave me a little extra money, but in retrospect, I wish they had been ecstatic. My parents made it seem as if my good grades were expected.

Expanding my peer circle helped my transformation, too. I made friends with some young women in school who could be categorized as the intellectual types. These women didnt deal with unmotivated guys, so I made it a point to get the best grades possible and not be one of those types of guys.

My hardworking attitude transcended beyond just school. In eleventh grade, I joined a marathon training program and got in the best shape of my life. Before running the marathon, classmates had labeled me as a bit of a nerd, because I didnt play sports, was fairly chubby, and wore glasses. Now my social life has improved. I play sports, go out more, and have made new friends.

With all my hard work and determination, Im working a job and gaining as much experience as possible. This fall, Im heading into my senior year of high school and I plan on finishing this last leg of high school strong.

Ive learned that education is the key to success. When I was young, grown-ups always use to tell me, Get an education, boy! Back then, my grades were mediocre and I wasnt on track to get into a good school. I had to step up my academic performance.

I would love to attend an Ivy League university, but if I dont get in, UC Berkeley is my college of choice. I plan on learning as much as possible. Why stop at just four years of college with a B.A.? Who knows? Maybe Ill pursue an M.D. or J.D.!

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