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My favorite subject has always been math. When I was younger the only thing I truly knew about myself was that I am smart. However, near the end of 7th grade, this one truth was painfully questioned. When it came to being accepted into the 8th grade math class at my high school, you had to pass a test to get in. I deemed the class as absolutely necessary. In the darkest corner of my mind, I forced myself to believe that this class determined my self worth. The high school had the feeder schools, mine being a small private school, determine which students would take the test. Based on my work ethic, intelligence, and love for learning it was like the class was made for me. I was the kid who finished their homework quickly and didn’t need to study for tests, especially math. Unfortunately, not everyone saw me like I did.

On a brisk spring day, I came home from school and found my normally very calm mother looking incredibly upset about something. She barely made it in the door and up the stairs before bursting into tears. Our house has a landing right after the front door and the main part of the house is upstairs. I quickly became concerned, so I asked what was wrong and how I could help. She told me I wasn’t allowed to take the test because the principal decided I wasn’t “smart enough” out of all the kids in my class. It took a minute to really understand the weight of her words. At first I was just numb, like those few simple words were incomprehensible. On the other hand I was furious as I started to feel warm tears fall down my face. I questioned how she could do that to me. This revelation that someone didn’t consider me smart made my world crumble. I felt that my whole existence no longer mattered based on their one opinion. Then the anger left as quickly as it came, and I felt a wave of calm, I was almost at peace. It was as if I knew that this wasn’t the end and I would get to take the test because it’s meant to happen.

So, my parents and I started off on a long, grueling journey. We questioned the principal, reached out to the high school, and met with the priest who acts as the superintendent. You always hear people talking about fighting against authority for what they believe in as well as standing up for themselves, but this was the first time I had to. It was as if I was a tank on the battlefield. I’d get hit and told there was nothing they could do about her decision, yet I’d just keep treading along. Getting into this class would not only prove to her that I’m smart, but also to myself.

Fortunately, the superintendent-like priest disagreed with the principal and felt everyone deserved to take the test. I was ecstatic that I actually achieved this, but then there was a lot of pressure. I felt I needed to do well otherwise it would be as if all the fighting was for nothing. I did pass the test along with eight of my other classmates, where we all excelled. I got one of the highest grades and have done phenomenal in high school since proving to myself that what other people think about you doesn’t matter, it's your confidence in yourself that does. Ever since I have strived for perfect grades and being the smartest I can, which isn’t exactly healthy, because this lead to being a perfectionist. This experience taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to and no one can stand in my way. Now I know that being told “no” is the beginning of a story, not the end.

© Olivia Rueschhoff . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.