WHO ASKED US?: Dropping Out and Coming Back
New America Media, News Feature, Kalei Meyers Posted: Apr 26, 2007
Editor’s Note: Despite obstacles, 75 percent of the youth identified in NAM’s California Youth Poll believe life will be better ten years from now. 96 percent believe that if they work hard, they can achieve their goals; 73 percent also expect to have a higher standard of living than their parents. Commentator Kalei Meyers, 16, is at the extreme end of this spectrum—a high-school dropout and crack dealer at 14, she is now enrolled in school and aspires to go to college. Myers is a contributor to YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.
In my neighborhood it seems like more and more kids drop out of high school every day. Truthfully, there is no one specific reason for this. Some get pregnant, some get caught up in the street life or start believing that education doesn’t mean anything.
I dropped out of school for almost a year and a half. I wasn’t pregnant, and it wasn’t because I didn’t like school. I dropped out at the beginning of my sophomore year because I was addicted to selling crack and straight up getting money.
Even though my dropping-out led to probation violations and sometimes back to juvenile hall, I didn’t care. At that point in my life I only cared about shinin’ (having money and showing it off).
Older friends and relatives used to constantly tell me that I was messing up my life by dropping out so young. I have several family members who dropped out of school and are now stuck settling for a welfare check and the project life, or chasing after a man for his money. Some of my cousins have felonies and were pregnant at 16. On the other hand, I have sisters and cousins who are in school, have jobs, and are living right. Me, I had to go my own route and learn from my mistakes before I could understand that there ain’t no shinin’ when you’re a high school drop out.
I was never considered a dumb individual. All through my life, counselors and teachers told me that they saw something in me. Schoolwork always appeared easy to me, but I never went to class. I just didn’t take school seriously. Before I dropped out I would just go up to the gym to fade up on weed and talk with my patnas’ in the hallways about who had on what new piece of clothing. I was basically there for everything but the education.
Once I dropped out, the days went by so fast, and I’d think to myself, “I wish I had done something productive.” I would get up at eight o’clock every morning as if I was going to school, and then I would go post up until the sun went down or I felt like going home for the night. Some days I would just go hang out with people older than me, who had the same attitude towards school, which was to forget about it.
Before I knew it, it had been a year, and I was beginning to be tired of being a low life.
I realized that being in the street all day wasn’t making me happy. I knew then that street money will be in the street for life, but I got only one chance to do right in school. Whether I become a lawyer or a crack head ghetto baby mama, I told myself, the choice is really up to me.
The moment that really got to me was when my sister looked me in the face and said, “If I could know what I know now and be your age again, I would have a meal ticket, blood.” I took that statement to heart, because it came from my own sister, someone I looked up to. She herself dropped out of school to live the street life. At that moment I realized that even though I started off on the wrong track, unlike others, I was young enough to do a complete turnaround if I put all my effort into it.
I visualized myself in the future, selling coke on the block with a tenth grade education. Then I pictured myself sitting in a university classroom, getting a degree, and making money legally and living happily. I told myself that only I could decide which route I was going to take. I realized then that even though you’re from the hood, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to see bigger and better things.
Ever since then, I’ve been back in school, my grades have greatly improved and I feel so much better about myself, knowing that I decided to take a step forward. Dropping out and coming back was hard because I have a lot of credits to make up, but I would much rather do hella work for my diploma than continue to do nothing, and end up with nothing. If I work hard enough, I think I will be able to graduate on time. I’ll do what I have to do to succeed and be the best at whatever I choose.
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