At age 3, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a form of autism. This made my social and private life difficult for me, as I never seemed to truly fit in anywhere, especially the public education system.
I had always known I was different, but it was during second grade that I became aware I was considered a freak of nature by those around me, even by some teachers. I barely had any friends at all as the years went by. I had no friends. In fact, I had enemies. I’ll be blunt. I was treated horribly in fifth grade and was never happy in school. When I went to middle school, it became worse for the most part. The only good thing about middle school was that I met another kid like me. He and I were both outcasts, and we got along extremely well. When other students found out that he and I were friends, they targeted us even more, refusing to let people like us be happy.
By eighth grade, I was taken out of public school and put into private school. While I was in private school for kids like me, I had a better social experience, but my educational needs weren’t being met. I tried homeschooling, but it didn’t go well. I had no other option but to go to a Day-Treatment Center. Many of the students there were not there because they had special needs like me but because they had violent episodes in school or at home that continued at the center. I felt unsafe and made no social or academic progress.
After all those transitions, I finally finished the eighth grade over two years. I told my mom that I was terrified of going to a public high school. I knew that I wouldn’t survive due to the fact that I was special and different from the other students. I decided that the next school I was in would be my last try, and if it didn’t work for me, I would drop out.
In the fall of 2014, I went to Dynamic Community Charter School, a school that just opened. At first I was a little skeptical. I had heard what wonderful things the school planned to do, but I worried it would just be a disaster. After all, that was my experience every other year in school. Then it was my first day of school at Dynamic, and I met so many wonderful people, students, and staff. Within the first week, I was happier than I had been with all my years at other schools.
There is no bullying at Dynamic because a lot
of the other students know what it is like to be bullied. During my experience with public schools, whenever the class was learning something, you were expected to learn at the same time as everyone else, and if you did not understand the material, the class would move on to the next subject without you. The teachers really didn’t care about students individually. They only cared about getting class done. At Dynamic, the teachers wait to make sure everyone understands the subject, no matter how long it takes. Due to this, my academic skills have improved drastically. I’m getting better grades than I have in years. The teachers also work one on one with students who need it, in whatever way needed to help them learn.
I had no friends since I went to private school, but in Dynamic, I’ve made seven friends! Since Dynamic, my stress levels have also improved, and I have greater control than I ever had before. Because Dynamic is such a wonderful and low-stress environment, my stress tics, which included loud noises and body jerks, have nearly disappeared at school.
This school has truly been life-changing for me. I do not know where I would be if I were not in Dynamic. I will be honest. I will drop out of school if I am forced to be in a public high school system. I would not survive. I know it, and my family knows it. So I beg the State Board of Education to let Dynamic stay so that all of its students have a school they are happy to go to every day to learn and spend time with friends.
Bailey-Michael Gladden of Durham is a ninth-grader at Dynamic Community Charter School.