I never really felt challenged in school. I received A’s and B’s in my classes, but I never enjoyed myself. I am good at teaching myself and I learn fast, so I find being in a classroom where the teacher is also responsible for teaching over twenty other students incredibly unappealing. I feel that I am better at teaching myself, and better at learning through hands-on situations or when I am self-motivated. Being in a classroom actually holds me back.
I tried all sorts of alternative schooling; I went to six different schools before ending up at North Star, and I was in a gifted program in one of them. I enjoyed going to Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School because I liked the people, and the classroom setting was slightly more relaxed. The students were on a first name basis with the faculty, much like North Star, giving us the opportunity to become friends with our teachers. However, I still felt that I wasn’t being allowed the freedom that I needed.
In John F. Kennedy Middle School and Northampton High School I was at the top of my class. I went to honors classes and I got good grades, but that didn’t mean that I was happy. In fact, I was miserable. Throughout the first semester of 9th grade I was depressed, and I suffered from frequent emotional breakdowns. I was also suffering from a constant headache and scattered insomnia. By the end of January 2006, I wasn’t turning in any of my homework, yet I was still getting A’s and B’s in all of my classes. I was in no shape to continue school, but I hadn’t found any other options. On the Friday before our finals, one of my friends told me about North Star. She had been in a similar situation, and she had just gotten home from a meeting with Ken at North Star. She said that it sounded perfect for both me and her. I talked to my parents about it over the weekend, and we met with Ken on Wednesday. I started going to North Star the very next Monday, and I have never regretted it. I stay in touch with my other friends, and I have met a lot of amazing new friends while here.
Out of all the subjects I am interested in, my two real passions are writing and art. When I was in school, I would doodle all over my assignments, and I never stopped coming up with ideas for stories to write. My friends, peers, parents, and even occasionally my teachers would be shocked that I called these drawings ‘doodles’ because of their quality. I drew on my worksheets, my handouts, and even my planner, but I never had the time to write down the stories that I couldn’t stop developing.
Because school took so much time, I felt like I never had any time to be personally creative. I had emotional break downs almost twice a week and I suffered from depression, so I didn’t have very much inspiration or energy to spare. Even when I had time, energy, or inspiration, I didn’t really have a schedule or a supportive workshop to give me the motivation to continue on one specific story.
After leaving school, and taking a grace period in which I recovered some of my energy and inspiration, I started taking two different writing workshops and ended up writing at least twice a week. I spent about a year getting all of my fragments of stories down on paper and then came up with a story that I intend to turn into a novel. I now have almost forty pages of that novel written, and most of the outline as well. Although I’m not going to any writing workshops over the summer, I am going to get a group of some of my friends together to write.
I have been able to use better materials for my art since leaving school because I no longer have to doodle on papers that have lines or print on them. This makes my work look cleaner and more professional, which makes me more likely to be satisfied with it. Having clean work also allows me to post it online in order to get more feedback. While I only had one portfolio before coming to North Star, I now have three binders full of art that I am proud of, and one binder filler with older art.
In addition to keeping all of my art safe in folders, I have ensured that I won’t lose my writing by saving it on a flash drive that I keep with me at all times, as well as emailing it to myself so that I can access it from any computer with internet. I bring the binder that contains my best art with me at all times as well.
Since coming to North Star, I have found a lot of amazing people who are just as interested in writing and/or art as I am. I find it inspiring to share my stories with others, and so North Star has become a perfect place to go for inspiration. There is always someone who’s interested, and there’s always someone who will listen and/or discus what I or they are writing about.
The writing workshop at North Star has become a sort of community, where people know my stories and expect me to continue them. I find the knowledge that people actually enjoy hearing what I’ve written to be inspiring and motivating. Similarly, I look forward to hearing the other wrters’ stories every week as well. The writing workshop that I take outside of North Star works the same way. It gives me the kind of structure that school lacked and that I thrive on.
I have taken several other classes at North Star such as Logic, Psychology, Mystic Path, French, and Art. I have taken a short painting class outside of North Star, as well as an ongoing writing class, and another French class. I’ve also been learning a little bit about both belly dancing and American Sign Language from a friend of mine, and I’ve been volunteering at the Northampton Parent Center for four hours every Wednesday.
My breakdowns have stopped, for the most part, and I am no longer depressed. I enjoy my days, and as a result I get along with my family better than I did before. I have more energy, and although my headache and insomnia have not gone away, they are much easier to cope with. If I have a particularly bad night’s sleep or a particularly bad headache, I am not required to go to any classes. I am in control of my schedule, so I get to make my own decisions based on what I think that I am up for. Also, because I haven’t been as exhausted or depressed I have been able to discover more and more things that help me get to sleep.
Since coming to North Star, I’ve been happier, healthier, and more productive. I can’t imagine going back to school. It would take away the precious freedom that I value so much, and it would keep me from being who I am. North Star is honestly one of the best things that has ever happened to me.