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Student Voice

I Refuse to Be Just Another Statistic

Statistically, I should be a failure. I've read that children of drug addicts are 69 percent more likely to suffer from depression. I've read that as a child of high school dropouts, I have as much as a 40 percent greater likelihood of dropping out myself. I've read that I'm more likely to do drugs, suffer from learning disabilities and become a teenage mother. None of these things happened. My entire life has been overcoming odds that should have made me fail. I was born three months premature to a mother who preferred drugs to parenting. She did not marry my father and he was never around. He too was an addict and is currently incarcerated. When I was seven, my mother was murdered. She wanted to get clean and was facing some serious time in prison, so she made a deal and gave names to the police. When she was released, these people found out and they killed her. They were never held responsible. What I took from this experience was a belief that I was never going to end up like my mother or father. I made up my mind that I was going to do whatever it took to be a good person. I had to grow up quickly. My sister and I moved around from aunts to grandparents to friends. Thankfully, my sister and I were never separated or placed in foster care. This is because we had a great social worker, Amy, whom I loved. She fought for us and made a difference. Through all of this I learned that if I did not become independent and become a fighter for myself, then nothing would get done. I knew I would have to advocate on my behalf and I wanted to prove I was a hard worker. I learned that you are not going to have someone there to hold you up all the time; you have to learn to do things on your own. I was independent in life and in school. I had to sacrifice hanging out with friends to spend extra time studying and stayed after school to get help. I had to handle keeping my grades up as well as working a part-time job. I was not involved in sports, because my free time was spent studying or at work. Beyond growing up quickly, I had to face another adversity. Being born early resulted in some disabilities, so I was in special ed for all of elementary and middle school. In high school, I decided not to accept any more accommodations. I was a C student all the way up to the end of freshman year. I became more committed to my schoolwork without the extra assistance, to prove I could do it on my own. Through hard work and dedication, my grades improved. I became the first in my family to attend college. I knew I would have to stand on my own in college and in life and I was ready to accept it sooner. Everyone has a choice on how to live their life and I choose to live mine with independence and responsibility. I am proud to work to pay for my own phone, car and insurance. There are things I know I have missed out on. It can be hard at times to relate to my carefree friends. When they complain about their strict parents, I want to tell them how lucky they are to have them. My father is in prison and he is not here for me. Instead I need to be there for him, like sending him money when I can. It has made me stronger. I have learned to love my life no matter what I have—or don't have—and to make the most out of everything. Based on statistics, there is a high probability I too would do drugs, or be a teen mom or a dropout. But everyday, I am determined to beat those odds. I am excited about college and my future. I am committed to not only achieving my goals, but to working with others as a social worker to help them achieve theirs. So to all of you who might find yourselves being "statistics of failure," be strong and focus on yourself. You can think positive thoughts. Set short-term goals that are attainable. Take advantage of the free help from your teachers. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. You never know unless you try.  
Taylor Stansbury is a 2015 graduate of Plainwell High School in Michigan. She plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College as a first-generation college student. An earlier version of this post appeared on Kalamazoo Gazette as Recent Plainwell Graduate Refuses to Be Statistic of Failure.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Stansbury.
Taylor Stansbury is a 2015 graduate of Plainwell High School in Michigan. She plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College as a first-generation college student. Taylor hopes to mentor and guide others as a social worker.

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