By: Haley Taylor Schlitz
Sixteen is an interesting number in our society. For a girl, it is perceived as “sweet”, and a rite of passage to becoming a woman. In many ways, sixteen can define who you think you are and what you can be. I am very aware of this paradox because I am 16 years old.
Think back to your junior year of high school. What was life like? What was important or popular? Did you have an idea as to what your life purpose would be? My journey to my version of “16” started when I was 11 years old. It was at this point in time I realized that in order to discover and create my life’s purpose, I had to move past the way education has been designed. I had to move past high school. I was motivated to prove that I had the academic ability to start college early. I had to find a path that allowed me to pursue the “me” I wanted to be.
“I understand that the only way to know your limits is to test them. In order to be great and realize our full potential as human beings on this earth; we cannot be afraid to be bold or fail.”
When I entered into the public school system, I was overlooked and excluded from gifted & talented programs. Despite the advocacy of my two professional parents, my educational needs were unmet. Initially I was a very enthusiastic learner, often paying so close attention to the class lessons that I was eager to engage with the teacher. However, when one teacher is responsible for twenty students, intellectual banter can become unappreciated and disruptive to the classroom. Eventually I discovered I could essentially zone-out during class and still score near the top of the class during exam time. Initial eager engagement and excitement for detailed plot-line revelations dissolve into frustration and ultimately lack of interest in completing the movie. My life felt like a long, incessantly buffering, Netflix movie. Homeschooling allowed me such an avenue, to take my own path and demonstrate my ability.
Motivated by challenges, I graduated from my homeschool high school and started college at the age of 13. I understand that the only way to know your limits is to test them. In order to be great and realize our full potential as human beings on this earth; we cannot be afraid to be bold or fail. Being bold entails deviating from the paved road and having the courage to create new paths. At 13 years old, I was a gifted student of color who embarked upon the unpaved path of early college matriculation. I am now completing my undergraduate degree in education, and I realize this is a very common phenomenon for gifted students, especially gifted students of color.
“It is my hope that I can bring my passion for addressing education equity issues and help facilitate a program that focuses on the legal advocacy needs of underserved students and their families in accessing gifted education programs.”
I realized that this issue is a result of the creational purpose of school systems coupled with the inherent racism that was woven into the foundational DNA of the system. It is because of this, that I am pursuing a career as an attorney. It is my hope that I can bring my passion for addressing education equity issues, and help facilitate a program that focuses on the legal advocacy needs of underserved students and their families in accessing gifted education programs. The lack of access to these programs helps promote stereotypes and keeps students of color in our K-12 schools locked in an education system that views them as the problem instead of the solution.
My decision to pursue my version of “16” has provided me with an opportunity to explore and start to understand the complex issues that I care about in life. I find myself thinking how the next steps in my journey will provide me further insights into these issues, so that I can strive to provide solutions. I understand that although my “16” is not the 16 most envision in their life, my version allows me to engage in the areas I deeply care about and advocate for a fully just and equal society. I love my version of “16”, and look forward to immersing myself in the study of law.