Because They Can

Perspectives Charter School isn’t just a school for me. It has given me the foundation to open up my heart. It turned me into a straight-A student, helped me forgive my drug addict birth mom, helped me live a healthier lifestyle, and gave me a path to a brighter future.

Here’s how it happened.

I used to attend Langston Hughes Elementary School here in Chicago. In fourth grade, I ran with a bad crowd. Even though the school building was beautiful, it had a gate we would break to go outside and buy junk food. There were crack addicts nearby. When we were actually in school, we would yell and fight.

And I guess because my teachers thought that I was a bad kid, they didn’t pay attention to me. What they didn’t know was that I couldn’t accept learning my mother was a drug addict and was making bad choices in her life. It hurt me so much inside, and I showed it by acting crazy.

My aunt, who is raising me, enrolled me in Perspectives Middle Academy for sixth grade to join my older brother and older sister so we could all go to the same school. I didn’t know multiplication or division. We always used calculators at Langston Hughes, but I never really understood how to think about math.

So when I came to Perspectives, I had so much to deal with.

And then I had an ethics class taught by Miss Plante, called A Disciplined Life. It changed me. We learned about how to improve our self-esteem, have good relationships, and take responsibility for ourselves.

But it wasn’t until we had a lesson on forgiveness and Nelson Mandela that I understood what I needed to do. Even though he was in prison for 27 years, Nelson Mandela forgave the people who put him in there. He had dinner with one of his prison guards. He had lunch with the man who wanted him to get the death penalty. He was not bitter.

I didn’t want to be, either.

A Disciplined Life opened me up, so I decided to talk about my birth mom. After I did, other kids came to me with their problems. We were so emotional, so real with each other. We cried. You don’t know what other people are going through.

Late one night, I chose to live out the lessons I learned from Nelson Mandela about forgiveness. I went to see my birth mom at a mental health facility. It was midnight, after visiting hours, but I knew I needed to see her.

At that point, I hadn’t seen her in five years. I told her, “Kim, I forgive you,” and I felt a heavy burden lifted off me.

Running with My Heart

I like how the school lets you focus on yourself, push yourself to do new things, and overcome challenges. My life has been filled with them, but I didn’t know I could get past them until Perspectives showed me how strong I really was.

I was almost 200 pounds when I arrived at Perspectives, and I was encouraged to join the track team. Miss Walsh, the coach, told me something I’ll never forget:

“You have to keep going. When your legs get tired, you have to start running with your heart.”

I’ve lost a lot of weight since then. I have the willpower to keep going, no matter how hard it gets.

I now have a 4.0 GPA. At my old school, I never got homework. That all changed when I came to Perspectives. Because they knew I was so behind in math, they caught me up through a website called XtraMath. I got lots of individual attention, and my teachers always believed in me even when I didn’t. They never let me give up.

I get lots of homework now, but it’s like when I started track: the more I’m used to it, the more I can do. My teachers always have high expectations of me.

There’s so much for me to look forward to in the future. I would like to attend college and then operate a safe house for runaway teens and own a fashion company.

I’m happy for myself. I don’t think I could have said that before I enrolled in Perspectives. Three years later, I’ve watched myself grow. And I will continue growing with my heart wide open.

Too often, students of color and students who face challenging circumstances don’t receive the support and encouragement they need to succeed. They are held to lower standards because of a belief gap between what society believes they can achieve and what they truly are capable of when we believe in them.

Visit to find out how to close the belief gap.

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About the Author | Anonymous

Kim Wilborn, 13, is an eighth grader at Perspectives Middle Academy in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in Chicago. She will enter Perspectives High School of Technology this fall.

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