Capitol View Elementary, Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa. Clive Learning Academy, West Des Moines Community Schools, Iowa. Anwatin Middle School, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota. East Cobb Middle School Cobb County School District, Georgia. Towers High School, Dekalb County School District, Georgia. Edison High School Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota. North Community High School, Minneapolis Public Schools, Minnesota. Dobson High School, Mesa Public Schools, Arizona. East High School, Des Moines Public Schools, Iowa.
In my eighteen years of life, I’ve been a student at nine different schools in six different districts in four different states. Moving around so frequently left the door wide open for teachers, family members, and school staff to stereotype me and my future because of the instability in my life. They expected me to cut class or not finish my assignments. I could tell by the way they treated other students with similar situations.
I began moving frequently after my stepfather passed away in 2008. He was the sole provider in our household, so when he died unexpectedly none of us knew what to do. Our first big move was from Des Moines to Minneapolis. I was a little sad because I was leaving my friends, but I was happy to be closer to my family who lived in Minnesota.
In Minneapolis, I started going to Anwatin Middle School. My experiences there were awesome; the teachers were engaging, and I made friends easily. I had a lot of support from the teachers, deans, and administrators. My favorite activity there was Beacons, an after school program where you could pick different classes to take, like art, dance, and singing. They also fed us snacks and had a school bus to take us home after. Beacons was my favorite thing because I got to meet a lot of new people and the instructors were also very chill and laid back.
During the middle of my seventh grade year my mom decided to move to Marietta, Georgia. At the time it wasn’t really clear why, but now I know it was because she was having some trouble dealing with our family members. This was our second big move in a year, and I started at East Cobb Middle School in the middle of the school year. I had a hard time making friends there, and after I finished the year there, we ended up moving back to Minneapolis, and I went back to Anwatin for eighth grade.
Once I graduated from eighth grade, we left Minnesota again and went to Decatur, Georgia where I attended Towers High School for my freshman year. That was my first time ever having to wear a uniform, and I hated it – not just because I wanted to wear what I pleased, but because I feel like individuality and freedom of expression is important. I should be able to have my own sense of style and not look the same as another person. I felt that they looked at me as if I was another student and not Daija.
After a semester in Decatur, we moved back to Minneapolis, and I went to Edison High School. My experiences at Edison were probably the worst of all the schools I attended. I had an incident with my algebra teacher who was a first year teacher at the time. Neither I nor many of my classmates understood the subject the way he taught it. I remember being in class for an hour listening to him explain this new unit and not getting it at all. I would have to ask my friends or other classmates how to do the homework, finding out that they were just as confused as I was. I wouldn’t turn in homework because I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t want to go to the teacher because I didn’t think he would be able to clearly explain it either.
My mom checked my grades frequently, and she noticed my grade in that class was way lower than the rest, and she talked to me about it. I ended up staying after school with him at the end of every quarter to get my grade up just enough to pass. I never did feel like I understood the subject.
Later that year I had another negative encounter. It was the end of the school year and most of the students had finished their finals. One of the school’s coaches approached me and a group of my friends, and said that we needed to go to class. As he walked away, I heard him say said that it was always us, the black folks, in the hallways doing nothing. He thought I didn’t hear him, but I did. It made me feel like I was being profiled as a black student who didn’t go to class. I was offended.
Those two encounters motivated me to transfer to North Community High School for my sophomore and junior year of high school. My experiences at North were the best I’ve ever had with any school. The faculty and staff at North were very engaging and helpful; I knew they wanted us to succeed and do better in school—which isn’t something I always felt at the other schools I had attended.
North was like a big family to me. We fussed and fought, but we were all there to uplift each other and help. I was a cheerleader there, and my coach was like another parent.
North has always seemed under appreciated in the district. We didn’t get the same treatment as the other Minneapolis Public Schools schools such as Edison, Washburn, and Southwest. You always see the positive educational things going on at schools in wealthier parts of the city, but you only see North getting noticed at championship games. It’s wrong. People only want to uplift us when we win a state title.
I wanted to graduate from North, but unfortunately I moved again after my junior year. My mom and I moved to Arizona that summer, and I started my senior year at Dobson High School. In October of 2017, I began attending East High School in Iowa for the remainder of my senior year.
I graduated from high school on time in May of 2018, and I’m grateful for the unique education experience I had due to the number of schools I attended. I learned things I continue to carry on my journey. The two districts in Georgia taught me more about African American history than any other school I attended. They also helped me become more comfortable with tests by actively preparing me for them. In Iowa, I learned about college and adult readiness. I took a financial literacy class which was required by the state. It taught me about bank accounts, credit, and how to read paychecks. Minneapolis schools taught me a lot about building professional relationships and networking with people in the journalism field. I also got a lot of support as I was going through traumatic incidents. Lastly in the Arizona district, I learned a lot more about technology as a whole and how there are faster ways to look at your grades and keep up with how you’re doing in school.
Being a student in six different districts was tough, but despite my struggles, I still came out on top. I graduated in the top ten of my graduating class. I was on the honor roll my entire senior year, and am headed into college with twenty-two credits. Through every negative experience, I had a positive outcome.
I am very proud to say that I did it with supportive people behind me. My mother was my biggest support system throughout my journey and continues to be that person as I continue on to college. My mentor Kenzie – who I met through the Step Up intern program, has been my support system throughout my journey and has continued to open doors in the journalism field that I couldn’t imagine having found for myself. Without these two I wouldn’t have been able to make it happen, and I am extremely grateful for them. I am hoping that other students dealing with problems such as mine continue to excel and chase their dreams. As for the adults— all these kids need is support and encouragement knowing that they are believed in and that they are pushed to do more and not just the bare minimum.
Daija Triplett is a first generation college student, currently attending Minneapolis Community & Technical College. She has also been an intern for North News for the last two years, and is a thriving young writer in the Minneapolis area.
*This story originally appeared as part of the Unbound program. Unbound was created through a partnership between the Graves Foundation, and Pollen, with the goal of creating a new conversation about public education in Minneapolis.(www.pollenmidwest.org)