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Kent students find a way to recover in school
Eduardo Torres was a good student for much of his academic career. But when his grandmother died during his sophomore year at Kent-Meridian High School, his grades plummeted.
Torres, however, made an academic recovery by keeping the value of his education in sight.
High school students have different ideas of why education is important to them. For some, it's a family expectation while others value it when considering a career or making a better life for themselves than their parents had.
But every so often students can lose sight of their objectives in school either through personal tragedy, peer pressure or simply difficulty and hopelessness.
Other times, students feeling overwhelmed by a system that isn't serving them correctly can start skipping classes.
Such was the case with Moises Mendoza who started skipping his math classes because he was struggling.
Starting to slip
Mendoza's family moved from Fresno, Calif., to Kent in 2009. After attending a year at Mount Rainier High in the Highline School District, he transferred again to Kent-Meridian. Between shifting schools, having to take a second year to make up for credit transfers and lacking a solid support network, Mendoza gradually slipped up on his most difficult subject, math. After a while, he says that he stopped paying attention entirely.
Mendoza says that usually a student skipping a class signifies that they're having trouble, either socially or academically, in that class.
"When I skipped a couple of times, that's the reason for it," he said. "I had trouble in the class. I had no idea what we were doing and the teacher was not explaining enough."
From there, it wasn't hard for the friends that he had made to persuade him to start skipping class. If you're not doing anything productive, it's easy to find other ways to occupy your time.
He says the hardest part of being a student is when he's not engaged with learning, and that school becomes a routine. He still says that he knows the importance of learning and doing well in school. "If I don't get a good education, I'm not going to have a good future."
The key for many students in Mendoza's situation is acknowledging their mistakes before they find themselves beyond help.
Realizing a mistake
Keren Basuro-Soto started having trouble when she began skipping church, and fell in with what she calls "the cool crowd." While she never got into drugs, some of her friends used, and they encouraged her to skip classes. She figured she could come back and still do well enough to pass the classes.
"Oh, who cares if I skip a few days? I can come back in around finals and pass," was her mentality.
Basuro-Soto could see her path going the wrong way and she started to realize how difficult it could get when she was on a mission trip to San Francisco to give donations to the homeless. One man in particular stood out to her.
Like her, he had been a strong student and football star in high school, but started experimenting with drugs after falling in with the wrong crowd.
"Even though I didn't do it, I knew eventually I was going to fall into it like he did," Basuro-Soto said.
It came to a head when she got into a fight with her mother.
"She yelled at me like she'd never yelled at me before," Basuro-Soto said.
Her mother's disappointment encouraged Basuro-Soto to re-apply herself to her studies, and with the help of other teachers she got herself back on track, now close to finishing high school as a "super senior."
Making a comeback
Parents and teachers can make an immeasurable difference in a student's educational outlook on their educational future. In Bonshee Freeman's case, it was a close friend who gave her the drive to move forward.
Freeman moved to the U.S. from Liberia, her family refugees from the second Liberian Civil War. She says she was an average student until the ninth grade, saying that she had a "getting-by" attitude toward school.
Without a strong motivation to get an education, she fell into "the wrong group of friends." They encouraged her to cut classes and generally slack off.
"I thought if I got at least a 'D,' I would pass," Freeman said.
She credits her recovery to influential adults in her life, like her teachers Jeffrey Heiman and Kim McClung, but largely to her friend, Otterlee Cooper.
"That was the most positive relationship I've ever had," Freeman said of Cooper.
Cooper helped Freeman stay focused in school, whether it was giving her rides to and from home, or simply reminding her to "stop texting, you're in class."
She's taken to focusing on school.
Having role models, whether it be teachers or friends, helped Freeman focus on making a good future for herself and reasserted the value of education to her.
"I have a really big dream for my life. I don't want to be one of those people who say, 'I could've done this.'"
Looking to the future
Freeman hopes to go into acting when she gets out of school and is looking at college. If that doesn't work out, she's looking at teaching. Basuro-Soto is looking at a similar career in education. Mendoza, having corrected his credit deficiencies, is on track to graduate and considering engineering or automotive technology, and Torres has looked at many career options, ranging from culinary work to psychology.
Torres said his grandmother told him that "without education, you'll make other people fools." He is more concerned about with letting down the people who believed in him than letting himself down by not valuing his education. He figures it's better to have high goals and miss them than settle for less than he's capable of.