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Charter Schools

Thank You, Mom and School Choice, for Saving Me From Ninth Grade

From preschool till my freshman year of high school, my grandma and I would commute about 30-40 minutes each day to a different city so I would be able to attend better schools. This is where I learned and practiced my Spanish, as we listened to Spanish radio: "El Cucuy de la mañana." In middle school, I was a Five Semester Scholar, which meant I started the second semester of sixth grade with a GPA of 3.7 or above, but I managed to keep a 4.0 throughout the five semesters. Being a Five Semester Scholar was one of my biggest achievements, it was better than just being on Honor Roll. I told myself during sixth grade that in eighth grade I would be on the stage giving my Five Semester speech, and I did it.

The Ninth Grade Booby Trap in Large Public Schools

Entering the ninth grade was an overwhelming change, the classes were too large and I was embarrassed to ask for help. I didn’t want to be made fun of. I didn’t pay attention in my honors geometry class and I remember my teacher told us we could have two missing assignments and it would not affect our grades. I didn’t understand the material so I just stopped doing the homework. This was the first time I had struggled in school. I felt a sense of shame. I'd lost the motivation I'd had in middle school. I failed the exams. If I'd asked for help, I could probably have passed the class, but the teacher did not show she cared—she actually suggested I transfer out of honors. I was reluctant to do this. I had never given up on anything before. Instead, I earned  an F—it was my first and the last. There was also a change in my motivation in ninth grade. I didn’t go to school to learn anymore, I went to look cute and socialize. I focused on other things and less on my studies. I didn’t feel as intelligent as I felt in middle school. I also didn’t feel like school was important.

My Mom Fought for a Better School Choice for Me

I didn’t feel important at school. Fortunately, I was important to my mom! She continuously tried talking to me and even got me a tutor, but my motivation was not there. She then did the thing many parents fear to do. She told me we would find a new school for me to attend. I was angry with my mom for transferring me. We looked at different public schools, but I was not able to get into any of the charter schools because there weren’t seats available for me. Although we discussed why moving me out of a large public school was better for my future, I was still angry. I was angry until I witnessed the commitment my new school gave me. My new school—a private school—prepared me, guided me and motivated me to succeed. They give all the students equal attention, not only the selective few who are shining students. It’s a small school where they truly care about their students' success. Today, I am grateful for being blessed with a courageous mother who has been my number one supporter. I also thankful for my godmothers who have been there when I needed to vent. It was because of strong women in my life that overcame hurdles in my high school years. Having no regrets is something I also consider a blessing, for if I would have stayed at a large public school perhaps my path would not be as bright. As of today, I have received a few college acceptance letters and I feel I am prepared to leave to a university this year. Going to a small school has helped me so much because I am given the attention I deserve. I urge you to give your children the best opportunity they deserve too.  
An original version of this post appeared on the La Comadre blog as My 9th Grade Booby Trap: My Mom Fought for A Better School Choice.
Mariah A. Diaz is currently a high school senior. For the first 9 years of her education, her mother and grandmother drove her 7 miles away to another school district because LAUSD didn’t provide high quality options were she lived. She was a stellar student until her first year in high school when she was falling through the cracks. Her mother pulled her out of that school and found a high ...

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