Coconut Creek, Florida
My Life in a Nutshell: A Retrospective of a Time Not so Easily Forgotten
11:00 AM to 12:15 PM
Professor Peter L. Sutphen, Psy.D.
April 29, 2020
I was born an only child on October 19th, 1975 in Brooklyn, New York, to two very loving, devoted and supportive middle-class parents. To say I was a challenge growing up, would be putting it mildly, since I was a very overactive baby and a real handful to say the least. My mom said that as an infant she started to compare me to Niagara Falls because of the amount of diapers she had to go through each week. She would walk into the local neighborhood drug store with two compactor size trash bags and cleaned out his entire inventory of diapers once a month, due to the amount of times I needed changing in a day. The pharmacist and owner who was also our next-door neighbor, would end up doubling down on his orders of pampers, just to keep up with us and not run out.
Now on a more serious note, my parents both worked full-time jobs at a modest salary from the moment I was born, and I only got to see them late at night for dinner. Luckily, my grandmother from my mom’s side decided to move in with us to help raise me from the day I was born. Over the years, we grew close and faced many challenges together and separately as well. It became clear very early on that I could not learn or pick up all the natural baby firsts at the same pace as everyone else. I was always cranky and was easily upset at the drop of a hat. Then, my appetite was a whole other story because I was so finicky, since the day I was born. I would not even eat ice cream until I was eight years old and saw all my friends getting it from the Good Humor truck. On the other hand, put a bowl of Broccoli, Spinach, Brussel sprouts, or Asparagus stalks in front of this two-year-old and watch out for your fingers, if you know what I mean.
Next, I did not learn to read or write properly until the age of six, due to a speech impediment with the letter “S,” which made speaking my own name impossible. This had me getting teased a lot in school and would even have me sent home crying. Since not only did my name start with that letter, but almost every word we needed to learn at that time also started the same way. Plus, I remember having a Kindergarten teacher at the time, who kept insisting that since the name my mom gave the school for my attendance record was usually a short way of saying something else. She decided that she had the right to call me by the name she believed was actually mine, sending me home crying with a note for my mom that insisted she bring in my Birth certificate to prove my name.
Long story short that teacher lost her job and ability to ever teach again because of other parents who stepped forward with their kids to back me up. By the third grade, I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, a behavior issue with an uncontrolled temper, a speech impediment, a phonetic learning disability, and forced to repeat the third grade, so that I could be moved to a special education classroom. Which was supposed to be better equipped and trained to handle my outbursts. This explained a lot at the time, regarding my motor mouth, uncontrollable behavior and three-year-old temper tantrums that have been unpredictable, and my mood swings. For most of my life, I have also suffered from, an inability to both multitask and stay focused on just one task at a time for very long. I believe that it was decided at this time that I should start seeing a counselor who specialized in these types of conditions.
However, at that time, it was decided by my parents that it was in my best interests not to medicate me. Due in part to the side effects of the medications, which had me either so depressed that I did not want to do anything at all or had me bouncing off the walls hyper. So, in other words, I was either completely non-functional to the world, or spent so much time in the corner of the classroom that my mail was getting delivered there. I remember that it was even worse when I would get home by bus because we lived on the lower level of a duplex apartment and the landlord who lived above us could not stand the noise, I would be making all hours. My mom after the diagnosis, tried to explain to him that although I have a mental issue that they would try to keep me quiet if they could. Unfortunately for him, we never really got along, my parents were not home most of the day, and he had a very foul mouth.
So, at five years old, I began to curse at him as much as he did at me to shut up. Since then I came home, instead of sitting down to do homework, I would jump all over the house and talk to myself, spending all day in my little made up fantasy worlds mixing Greek mythology of the gods, and the history of Camelot, with the comic book world. Let’s just say I have had a majorly wild fantasy life and leave it at that. Eventually, things escalated to the point where my parents had enough of his attitude and tone of voice with me and decided to move out for my sake. Unfortunately, this meant saying goodbye to a lot of good and very interesting friends around my neighborhood to say the least. Although I had only two very close and memorable friends by the names of Kim and Draury at the time.
Kim’s family came to the US from China and were the first to invite me over after school for lunch, where her grandmother taught me how to use my very first set of chopsticks. Then, there is my other friend, a boy named Draury who had the strangest mother to say the least. He had Down syndrome and stomach issues, so whenever we all would run to the Good Humor truck for Ice cream, his mother would always say no. So, he would always run home crying because his mother was afraid that it would be too cold for him. So, I said to her to buy it for him and hold it on the side for a moment or two until it warms up a little, so that he can eat it. But she decides without thinking to put the Ice cream in the microwave instead. I am sure I do not have to tell you what happened next, which sent the poor kid home crying again.
Two weeks later, we moved about five blocks away from what was going to become my future high school. To another duplex apartment only this time the owners were an elderly nice Jewish couple with two daughters. One of which had severe mental impairments so, they were a little more use to my type of issues and did not have a problem with me living below them. I was about six years old by this time, but I remember this time the most because this block was almost like stepping back in time to a place where everybody knew one another. The neighbors all kept their doors open when they were home and greeted you with open arms from the moment you arrived on the block. They had a city park two blocks over with a big swimming pool where all of the kids would go to play and take swimming lessons.
There was also a Spanish grocery store one block over with the best candies for pennies each where we would all go after school for treats. They would even host block parties for a time and we would even play ball in the street. It was a very quiet neighborhood until the local mechanics shop opened up three blocks away that dealt with custom hotrods, who would often pick our street as part of their racecourse. I even remember a time when my friend Chris almost got hit while trying to retrieve a ball that rolled into the street, at the moment the hotrods decided to have a race without warning, knowing full well that there were children playing in those streets. Lucky for us kids the shop was shut down by the police shortly after everyone got together and logged a formal complaint, they were asked to leave.
The best part of living here, was when they would host a yard sale and all of us kids would get first pick at everything, provided we would agree to help out with setting up, cleaning up and breaking down everything after. They would even encourage us to have lemonade or Iced tea stands set up to pass out on really hot days, or hot coco and coffee stands on cold days. Money of which we would save for buying tickets to the local carnival that came around once a year. These were really fun times for all of us in this semi quiet neighborhood until, one day just three maybe four months prior to my seventh birthday, I was walking my baby doll in her doll carriage around our block by myself which was a regular ritual for me. This was usually pretty normal in those days since it was normally a fairly safe place to raise a family.
Little did we know that, this summer day would not only change the way we saw our little part of the world but would also create a lifetime friendship in one day. It was my second time walking around the block when I noticed a car that was double parked in the middle of the street which I knew did not belong there. Since we all knew what kind of cars everyone drove as well as their families cars, I became a little concerned when I walked past and notice that the two young men in the car had never been seen around there before. Just not enough to say anything to someone because the car was in front of a friend’s house that I knew was expecting out of town guests, which I naturally assumed was them. So, I continued to walk around and as I rounded the corner a big moving truck pulled up to the curb of our street followed by a big green station wagon carrying a family of five, who were preparing to move onto our street.
Karti, my soon to be best friend was about my age, her brother at the time was about six months old, their father is a psychiatrist dealing with trauma victims, their mother was a retired school teacher (god rest her soul), and their grandma was a retired nurse (god rest her soul as well). Since, I was such a shy little girl at the time, instead of saying anything to them like “hello” or “welcome to the neighbor,” I just kept walking with my head down. Until, just before I began to take my third walk around when I stopped to tell my grandma about seeing the moving trunk and she encouraged me to go over and introduce myself.
So I began my walk again, but this time as I passed the car and it began to follow me down the street, after about a few feet I stopped to fix the wheel on my dolls carriage and the car pulls up in the street beside me, the driver of which claims that he is lost and proceeds to ask me for directions. My stranger guard being up of course, I immediately look up for one of the neighbors just as mister Brown who lived across the street opened his door, so I called out to him asking if he can come down and help them. He does, they thank us both and then proceed to leave, but little did we know that they just circled around one of the other blocks and came back around. Just as I turned the corner of the side where Karti’s family was beginning to move in, I prepared to take my grandma’s advice, but she speaks up first and says “hello” to me.
We then started getting to know each other and discover that we had a lot in common, but since they were just moving in, there was not really much time to talk so we said our goodbye’s and I continued my walk. Unfortunately, for me it was by this time around that all of the neighbors were inside their homes and the car’s driver who actually would turn out to be a child predator, found a parking space to hide in across the street and out of my line of sight. Just as I passed that area, he began to pull out of the parking space and follow me. Once I got about halfway down the street, I began to notice the car following me and immediately a red flag went off in my head that something was not right about this situation. So, I begin to walk faster, but since I did not recognize the car at first as being the same one, I was curious to see what would happen.
It was at that moment that I decided I was close enough to the end of the block to step on my own shoelace, so that I would have to stop and bend down to retie them. But just then, once the car pulled over just a couple of spaces away from where I was, the passenger got out and began to follow me down the remainder of the block. It was just then that I recognized the car and the two guys as being the same ones, and realized the dangerous situation I was in. So, I threw the doll and carriage as hard as I could and ran around the corner screaming for help. Although, the moving truck was already gone I noticed that Karti’s family car was still there, so I ran up the stairs and started banging on the door as hard as I could streaming for help and her parents opened the door just a jar enough to see what was going on. The guys jumped back into their car and went speeding down the block through oncoming traffic, and her dad immediately understood what had just transpired.
He pulled me inside the house, asking me if I was ok, had his mom make me some hot coco and picked up the phone to dial 911 to report the attempted kidnapping knowing that timing was everything in these types of cases. Once he hung up the phone he asked me for my home phone number so that he can contact my grandma to introduce himself, tell her what just happened while letting her know that I was safely in their house and asked that she please get in touch with my parents and ask that they immediately come home. Letting her know that they were going to keep me at their home until the police arrive to get a statement. I was so scared that my whole body was shaking like a leaf and ended up crying hysterically.
By the time the police finally arrived, which felt like a lifetime to me, we discovered that those same two men kidnapped and later killed another child right up the street from where they tried to grab me. To make a long story short, we were told that if it were not for my quick thinking in remembering the events of that day, my bravery in gaining a description of their car, and my having the knowledge to get away as fast as I did, I not only would be dead right now, they would have also gotten away with the murder of that little boy. It turned out that between my description and witnesses to the second kidnapping, the police were able to catch the animals and keep the community safe again.
While Karti and I began to develop a friendship from that day on that has still lasted to this day. By the time we were eight years old; I was beginning to get into joining school sports teams a lot and having the time of my life. My favorite sports to play have always been Baseball, Basketball, Tennis, Running Track, and Bowling with my parents. It was at this time, as I was in the school locker room alone after getting out of detention late as usual on my way to Dodgeball practice, that one of the female coaches stopped me from getting dressed. Noticing that my naked back did not look right with my shoulder bones already beginning to show very pronounced, and being that her daughter had been just recently diagnosed with Scoliosis, she asked me if I was feeling any kind of pain from my back as she began to touch and press down on the back of my shoulders and the top of my hips.
When I said maybe a little, she told me immediately to get dressed back into my street clothes and go straight to the school nurses office with a note and a hall pass, stating what she found and that it was important that she keep me there until my parents arrive. She then contacted my gym teacher and the team coach to pull me from the roster immediately explaining the situation and asking them to cover her, so that she can meet with my parents and the dean in the nurses office. Once my parents arrived, she explained that it was really important that they listen to what she had to say really carefully and then taking me straight to the hospital for X-rays and testing. While the school nurse contacted my pediatrician to have her meet us at the hospital, explaining the reason for the call. Although, my parents were a little hesitant to go to the hospital at first, the doctor asked to speak to my mom at which time she finally agreed to take me in.
Long story short, the assistant couch did not know how right she was to insist on the hospital visit because it turned out after countless hours of testing and examination that my spinal cord looked like an upside down “S.” It had turned out that my spine had a curved length of 90 degrees at the top facing my chest and 50 degrees at the bottom facing the opposite direction. At which time, they were told that if this was not corrected or left unchecked that I would have been dead within six months, as the top of my spine would have crushed my chest killing me instantly. A moment we would never soon forget and be forever grateful to that one person, who cared enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to look in on a student that was not even her own and in turn saved my life.
It took about four years of being forced to wear a spinal brace that I hated with a passion before we found the one surgeon that we all liked, who was the top in his field and an active professor in the field as well. Who after learning about my case from the Scoliosis society’s lecture hall presenter where he often lectured and agreed to speak with my parents afterwards, decided to have us contact his office in the morning to make an appointment, telling them that he would have his staff rearrange his schedule to fit me in. Long story short, he met with us in his hospital office for like five minutes at 7 am, to get a little bit of background information, and then had us waiting for hours as he had his staff put me through a battery of tests and X-rays and MRI’s of every conceivable part of my body from head to toe.
Finally, having us sent home around 6 pm, only to have us return the following week. To say that my mom was beside herself with anger by this time, would have been an understatement, at the fact that a so called world renowned pediatric surgeon would spend all of about five minutes with us, keep us waiting an entire day in a hospital 45 minutes away from where we lived, only to make us wait an entire week and come back again. Although, it turned out that he was ready and understood her anger but explained that he needed to run his own advanced testing to fully understand the severity of my condition before he could do anything. Explaining that he now agreed with the other doctors that I needed immediate surgery to fix my spine, but before my mom could say “no,” he pulled out large pieces of drawing paper.
Where he sketched out the entire spinal cord system including the nervous system, at which time he began to not only explain in plain terms how the spine affects the body but also how the nervous and muscular systems are affected by the spine. Which he explained was the reason for my body pain and shortness of breath, while explaining exactly how he was going to perform the surgery step by step. He continued saying that if all goes well, he will be able to operate by the end of the week, and that we should start the hospital check-in procedures as soon as possible. This was on a Wednesday and the 9 ½ hour surgery was scheduled for that Friday morning. Both My mom and grandma did not leave my bedside the entire time I was in the hospital, even planting themselves in front of the recovery room door refusing to leave unless they let my mom in to see me around 10 hours after seeing me off to surgery for just a moment.
It happened to be just after she left the room that I finally woke up, very tired, feeling nothing but slight twinges of pain every now and then thanks to the Morphine drip they had me on. Once fully awake, I had them take it away since I discovered that I had an extremely high tolerance for pain and needed nothing more than a Motrin. It took about a month after the surgery before I was fitted for a cast which started from the middle of my chest to the top of my hips. This had to be worn for about six months while my back healed from the surgery but allowed me to finally get out of bed and sit in a chair by the window. Where I could look out and see all of my friends and family that were too young to come see me. It was also at this point that the doctor allowed my mom and the nurses to help me learn to walk to the bathroom with that extra weight from the cast.
By the time the doctor was ready to take me for my first day of physical therapy following surgery, I was already practically running up and down the hospital halls. So, after nearly running him over he told my mom, “Here I am ready to take her for therapy to teach her how to walk again and she nearly runs me down! She is truly a miracle to behold, because in my career I have never seen anyone recover so fast from this type surgery without months of therapy for relearning how to walk again. I am going to have the nurses prepare the discharge papers, (jokingly of course he says) get her the hell out of here and take her home. I’ll see her again in my office when the cast is ready to come off but if you need anything before then call me.”
It was about another month before I was finally allowed to return to school but with a lot of limitations due to the medications I was on. Which had to be left with the school nurse to administer, being that it was narcotics during the times I was in school. Which also helped me stay out of trouble, because all throughout elementary and middle school I was the biggest troublemaker in the class. I could not sit still for very long, would talk or curse out everyone nonstop, and god forbid my parents or teachers ever got in my way, I would become violent. In middle school, I once threw a paper shoe box cover at a teacher’s head because she took away my baseball card collection since I was not putting it away fast enough for her. It would drive my mom crazy that I could not stop talking, repeating everything I said twice, and could not sit still for more than five seconds, that she would lose her temper and start yelling at me to shut up and sit still.
As I got older, my mom would yell, and I started having three-year-old temper tantrums and catching myself getting physical with her. So, I started locking myself up in my bedroom until I calmed down, because I would literally start throwing everything in sight that I could get my hands on. Although, mom made sure that no one ever knew what was going on knowing that I would have probably been taken away from them and committed in those days. Which she believed would have destroyed any chances of having a normal or future life on the outside. I have while in the process of writing this paper, remembered at least one time while still in the first grade, that I was almost taken away from my parents by Social Services for neglect.
You see my elementary school did not know how hard it was for my parents to even get me to bathe myself. Unlike most children who liked to play in the bathtub with their floating toys and rubber duckies, which I also had, I hated it. I kind of remember my mom once telling me that I would be kicking and screaming every time she would try to pick me up for bath time, or to brush my teeth, or especially when she needed to wash my hair. As an infant, I hated being in the water and getting the water or soap in my eyes, because I was convinced that it felt like the water or soap was burning my eyes. So, I just decided as a little girl that I was not going to take anymore baths or showers, and that brushing my teeth was a waste of time that could be devoted to other things.
It got to the point that, since I walked into class one day with unkept hair, dirty looking clothes for which I tried to tell them was because I was attacked by bullies in the school yard, and really badly smelling breath for which I refused to give them an excuse, that they sent me home and called Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) on my parents. It was not until the DCFS did their in-home assessment that it was realized by the school in combination with what my teachers were finding that they asked my mom for permission to run a few tests. Once all was done, they decided that I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and significant learning disabilities because in the early 80’s Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) had not been discovered yet. Making it easy to misdiagnose the fact that I had high functioning Autism without the physical impairments and ADHD at the time.
So, DCF dropped the case of neglect and instead offered to help my parents by giving them a list of child therapists and centers that could help educate them on ways to help me. They even provided some financial and medical assistance to my parents for me for the next year that followed. Until I was under control and acting like a normal kid again, which did not last for long of course. After which, my grades began to suffer significantly to the point that I dropped from A’s and B’s to C’s and D’s in one semester. By the time I entered Isaac Bildersee Middle School as a freshman, I had a D average, little maturity, and a distaste for school life in general. I wanted so badly to get kicked out of school that I would cut class or school, get physical with the staff and the students, all because I thought it could get me kicked out of school at the time.
In those days, I would rather either stay home all-day watching TV and sleeping in instead of going to school and having to struggle through my classes and doing homework every night by myself, because my mom could not help me. Plus, I was the smallest of the new class, so I got picked on a lot. Until Ms. O’Brian, my homeroom teacher who also became one of my closest friends by the time I graduated, which would not have even happened if not for her deciding to take me under her wing and mentor me. I would not even be where I am today if not for her always saying that, “I see the potential in you to become so much more than you seem to believe, and the only thing that you need to do, is to believe in yourself first and in your own abilities as much as I believe in you.”
Whenever she would see me struggling through a class she would try and stay after class to explain the directions to me in a way that I could understand them better. Also trying hard to have her fellow teachers do the same for me, so that I would have an easier time getting my homework done. By my second year of middle school, I was able to raise my grade point average to a C and make a few friends, most of which were due to a common interest in Baseball card collecting. Which as you are aware in one respect lead to me attacking one of my former teachers with a paper shoebox cover by accident. Which I say because I was not physically aiming at her, and then immediately ran out of the classroom, to take the city bus home. Then hid in my room until my parents came home because I was afraid, she might call the police, but it turned out that she was more concerned about my well-being than herself.
Which is why we all loved her so much, in her eyes we could do no wrong, all we needed was guidance and compassion. Which she knew goes a long way for her students, who learned many things in her classes. Just as in elementary, middle school also had us in one classroom learning a multitude of different subjects. One subject in particular was Sex Education, which was the one I hated the most and refused to take after the first day. In those days, I was so emotionally and biologically immature that it sickened me enough when my parents would kiss each other goodbye in front of me. There was no way I was going to watch a video about sex, when my own parents did not even talk about the “Birds and the Bees” in front of me.
My mom’s only response was no sex before marriage, as was customary in the Jewish Faith, or so I was told. Luckily for them in those days, I had no interest in boys or girls in that manner of speaking, even to this day that still remains the same. I never really understood the meaning of Sexual identity and I still do not, other than the fact that I am obviously a female, because of my name, my parents tell me so, my body type and body figure. Any more than that is still beyond my understanding and comprehension skills. As far as relationships go, outside of my own family and my fantasy world, I have never had one in my life. I have never even thought about doing drugs of any kind either, although I do remember being approached in the school yard, and immediately going over to the front doors of the school to tell the police. Since they were always known to hang out when it was a quiet day.
By the end, of my final year there, I did become friends with one boy that was in my class but a year older than me and just as tall at the time. When we graduated, I was warned that he had become bad news and that I should stay away from him, so I did. The rumors were that he fell into a really bad crowd and got involved in gangs, drugs, and guns. I was told that he had a Juvenile record and he was insane like his father was. He would tell me when he could that his father was an abusive animal, and that he was living with his grandma since his dad was in jail for abusing him.
Fortunately, we lost touch with each other following graduation and all through the summer, until my first year at South Shore High School (SSHS) (HS), when we suddenly ran into each other in the main lobby again. Only now, I discovered that he had a growth spurt over the past summer. So, I did not even recognize him when we passed each other, until I heard him call out to me. I learned during the first six months of school that over the summer he had gotten himself in deep trouble with one of the biggest drug gangs in the area. At the same time, friends said that they heard he was becoming mentally unstable. It would not be until our Junior year before I found out just how unstable he really was, which we can save for another time. The first thing I want to discuss in regards to SSHS is about my best friend Thelma Teresa Harris (AKA TT). It was one month before the start of my freshmen semester that TT moved in two doors down from us with her mom and little brother who was a little pest to say the least. TT was the same age as me but had really bad Asthma that required her to use Medical Marijuana to help her breathe easier.
So, her room was always clouded due to all of the smoke that would fill the room. Mind you she never really smoked the reefer, just lit it up. Put it down on the open windowsill, in front of a lit candle, covered her face, the candle, and reefer with a cloth and would then breathe in the smoke from both to clear her Sinus Cavity. Enabling her to breathe much easier, also she would get into much harder drugs, in the four years before Graduation, that would be too long of a story to tell in such a short period of time. So, I will save it for another day, right now I want to talk about our first day of HS. Since we lived so close to school, TT invited me to walk with her to school, so that she could introduce me to her boyfriend and his crew.
Which I would later find out were some of the members of the biggest most well-known gang in the area, and her boyfriend was their leader. Although, from the moment he discovered that I was not into guns or violence, drugs, drinking, or even sex before marriage he was surprisingly not against letting me and TT hang out with each other. He actually had a lot of respect for my feelings on the subject and went so far as to have word spread throughout the school that I was off limits to all of the drug dealers and bullies on campus. Being forced to incur his wrath if anyone messed with me while anywhere on campus. After which, TT escorted my mom and I to the principal’s office, before heading to her class, so that I could pick up my schedule. At which point, my mom remained to fill out the rest of the paperwork and meet with the principal about my physical restrictions, while the office assistant was asked to show me how to find my homeroom class.
She also had to show me how to find and access the elevators using a special card system that was coded to my Student ID, giving me special access as one of the few students allowed. The building was so large that it sometimes took 30 minutes to get from class to my counseling session. Plus, since my classes were on the third floor on the front side of the building, and the gym as well as team practices were on the first floor all the way on the opposite side of the building, it would sometime take as much as an hour to get there. Since, I had to take two elevators on opposite sides of the building to get there. Lucky for me, the lunchroom was on the first floor in front of the elevator, and the school library was on the second floor not far from the other elevator.
I actually ended up being the first and only freshmen to be invited to sit with the cool kids at the click table. Since it turned out that TT was the incoming queen bee of the school. So that was pretty cool to actually be popular for once instead of always getting picked on. Plus, I did not have to sit by myself at lunch like I thought I was going to have to do, because TT pulled me over with their group and saved me a sit at her table. It seemed like the entire room had their eyes glued to this freshman, as I sat down at the seniors table by invite. To learn the low down on what teachers to take, what classes to avoid, which security guards to get friendly with or avoid, and how to get on the school’s sports teams. The biggest things I learned from them that day is what classes were an easy “A” and which were so hard that you could not help but fail. Unfortunately, we really did not get to see much of each other during the day.
Since most of my classes were located in the front rotunda of the building, because every class in that section was Special Education. We even had our very own private Dean’s office, where I begin to work in my second year at the front desk. By the middle of my second year, I start to work in the Principal’s office, when her personal secretary fell ill, and the dean suggested that she accepts my offer to help out. Only, by the time her secretary was able to return to work, we found out that the principal had been diagnosed with end stage Pancreatic Cancer. We were all devastated when she died just three weeks shy of my graduation day, there was not a dry eye in the house.
The Valedictorian was so upset that she could not even finish her speech, and the assistant principal halfway through her own speech had to leave the stage with help after almost collapsing in front of us. My eyes were so puffy from crying that I actually tripped climbing up the stairs when I was called to the podium to accept my diploma. Lucky for me the paper was blank since I was to spend an extra year there, thanks to being left back yet again. Although, I was forced to face a lot more ups and downs in HS than anyone should have to face in a lifetime. On September 18th, 1991, during the start of my freshmen year, I was having dinner with my family in a Friendly’s restaurant, when my grandma suddenly slummed over at the table, just after my mom stepped away for the bathroom. Lucky for us, one of the local hospital nurses was on her break with a doctor sitting a few seats down from us, they ran over to see if they could help. By the time my mom got back to the table, the doctor said that she believes my grandma went into Diabetic shock and needed to get to the hospital immediately.
Long story short, a week later she went into a Diabetic Coma and died later that night! Then, halfway through my sophomore year, Karti’s mom suffered a massive Coronary Heart Attack in the middle of the night. Her husband who was a former Cardiac Surgeon when he lived in Haiti was beside her in the bed and was helpless to save her. Later that morning, while she still laid in bed waiting for the coroner’s van to come, we were both sent to school by our families, only to be picked up by our parents just one hour before the end of school. We were told about her death at that moment, and asked to come home and change clothes, so that my family could make the 45-minute drive to her house for dinner with the extended family.
But neither Karti or I wanted to leave her room that night or each other’s side, by the time anyone realized where we were, we had both cried ourselves to sleep on her bed. Since, they didn’t have the heart to wake us, because we were like sisters I got to sleep over that night and our schools were given notice that there was a death in the family, and we would not be coming in for a day a two. A lot of good things happened in the course of my junior year though, one of the biggest being that I got to attend my first Catholic Communion for Karti’s brother. I even got the chance to host the Communion party in his honor at the local catering hall across the street from where we lived. Since it was owned and operated by the uncle of the family, I baby sat for he gave me a big discounted rate on everything. He even took $200 dollars off the top and handed it to me in a sealed envelope for me to give to her brother as his communion gift from their family to him.
He personally came to the hall on his day off and ensured that everything went perfectly, right down to the cake, the entertainment, and even the open bar for the adults. Then a week later, I get a note delivered to me in class to report to the school library right after class, and I’m sitting there wondering did I forget to put something away last week, or did I shelve something inappropriately? Which was very unlikely since it was my second year on the library squad, but it turned out when I finally got there, that the leader of our squad was graduating that year, and she put my name at the top of her list for replacements. As soon as I walked in the door, the head librarian herself, who we very rarely ever saw called me into her office for the first time.
After having my school records sent up to her office for review, she asked me a series of questions. Some of which I thought were kind of strange at the time, and then she had me do a couple of entry level Librarian report assignments to see how well I could do them. Minus the normal time constraints that they face themselves, after which she finally told me that it was all just an elaborate test. To see how I handle myself in a situation under pressure, after which she revealed to me that she not only agreed with the squad leaders assessment of my work. She actually offered me the job right on the spot and had me report in during my first free period so that the squad leader could start training me as soon as possible. By the end of that week, it was as if I had been doing it my whole life, and I already had the full respect of our squad so that helped. Then by the end of that same year, I learned that I made it onto the track team after trying out almost a month early and forgetting all about it.
My first summer on the team, I got to do a cross-country two mile run in a local state park, against some of the school’s biggest rivals as a Junior Varsity (JV) member. Halfway through my second and last lap around the trail, I was in the lead and all of a sudden tripped over a tree root sticking up out of the ground and developed a massive blood clot in my knee. But since the race was not over, I picked myself, brushed off my clothes and knee, and attempted to keep going. After about a step or two I could not move and waited against the tree for someone to catch up. After about a minute or two, both the girls and boys Varsity team captains came around the bend and saw that I was hurt, but that although the injury was not too serious at the moment.
They both knew that not only was the medical tent on the other side of the park, with only a mile and a half to go, but also that every second going by without medical treatment could mean the difference between life and death, where blood clots are concerned. So, the two of them together picked me up between them and started running for the clearing together. Just as soon as they reached the clearing, they sat me down for a few minutes to rest while they ran ahead to the finish line, and alerted the paramedics about my injury, than came back to me just in time to help me cross the finish line in second place just behind the Junior Varsity team captain. Making me the youngest and newest member of the JV squad to get second place, with the fastest time. Lucky for me they were able to use a needle to drain the fluid reducing the clot before it could do any damage, although they still told my track coach and my parents that they were going to take me to the hospital for a few hours for observation.
To make sure that there would not be any damage from the clot, my coach had the team get back on the bus with the assistant coach and the team captains to get back and inform the school that he would be riding with me in the ambulance to the hospital. My parents followed behind in their car, so that firstly I would not be alone and secondly, due to my age at the time, I was still his responsibility until we returned to school. So, he needed a copy of the paramedics report as well as the hospital reports to document the injury for the school. It was determined that the schools medical coverage, would cover all of my medical bills because it occurred during a school event at no fault of my own. Plus, I brought home the second-place trophy for the school case, so that helped to make me one of the most popular kids in school, for the second time since coming to SSHS.
Following this up with the Local Junior Intercollegiate Invitational, where myself and two other teammates from both junior and senior varsity were invited to compete along with our captains. This was the first year that a non-senior had ever received an invitation to this event, since the grand prize for the top athlete was a full ride Collegiate Scholarship to any college in the country. Although, I unfortunately did not win, I did come in fourth place which was still pretty cool because I got a ribbon for my win. The only downside was that my GPA unfortunately dropped to 2.8, I was dropped from the team due to one of the biggest rules that states you must maintain a 3.0 GPA to be on a team. On the other hand, this turned out to be okay thanks in part because it freed me up for my biggest challenge to come, “The Senior School Play and Choir.”
For which, I was chosen to be a backup member of the chorus, in spite of the fact that I have no singing ability at all, and I am also tone deaf. At first, since a few of my closest acquaintances were in the cast, I thought maybe one of them was pranking me, and put my name down as a joke or something. Then I discovered after speaking with the stage manager, and most beloved teacher in the school, that she personally selected me to actually be her student stage director. Which was a lot of work, but at the same time was a lot of fun, right up until the day before our show. When the worst possible thing occurs. We get the call you never want to hear, my best friend, Show creator, and chorus star went to an ice-skating party and broke her leg, the night before.
Then, to make matters worse, she woke up and found that she lost her voice and needed someone to take her place in the chorus. Of course, as you may have already guessed she came to me, with one day to learn the lyrics, melody, and work the backstage. All at the same time, for one night only and still put on an amazing performance that would be remembered for years to come. Which not only got all of us a standing ovation but also won us the most school awards of any graduation class in the history of our school. Then a month later, I finally graduated with honors, and just a year later in 1997 my family and I moved to Florida. What can I say about my college experience, (It came, it went, what can I tell ya, HAHAHA)! Now on a more serious note, it was June 18, 1997 that my parents and I packed up our lives, said our very saddened goodbye’s, and left the big apple in our rear-view mirror. Hitting the open road on the week and a half drive for the sunny shores of South Florida and a brand-new life.
Out here was a whole different world then we were used to, and certainly not as prepared for. Although, as much as my parents could not stand the heat, they loved me more, so they decided to grin and bear it all for me. With six months of moving into my grandma’s old condo, I started working as a volunteer for a local hospital while I decided to start taking adult education classes at the local school. In preparation for a future college career. Unfortunately, I came to realize very early on that if I were going to even afford to go, I would need a job to earn the money myself. So, I start the crazy process of job hunting, but I was only six months in when someone told me of a long-standing company always desperately looking for good people to fill entry level positions. Plus, they hire right out of high school, so I say, “Perfect That fits me in a nutshell, Where do I sign up?”
Then, I find out that it’s Publix, and I am like, there is no way that they will ever hire someone with less than zero experience in their field. But sure enough, just six months after I applied and then nearly forgot all about them, I get a phone call asking me to come in for an interview. I walk into the store, the day of my interview wearing a very nice three-piece business suite holding a professional portfolio which has my resume, cover letter, multiple work references, and SSHS references. I was the best dressed person in the room, maybe a little too overdressed but I didn’t care. There were actually kids showing up in jeans and t-shirts actually thinking that they would ever be taken seriously on a job interview. Some of them looked like they just came off the playground and did not seem to care, because their parents worked there.
Out of the whole room, I was the only one that was asked to return, little did I know that what I thought would be nothing more than a steppingstone, would end up taking the next 18 years of my life. This was back in August 30, 1997, when I learned that out of hundreds of potential more experienced candidates than me, I was hired on the spot and asked to report back in two days’ time. Little did I know at the time, that this would last almost a decade of my life, until January 18th, 2016. An experience that I will always treasure, for a long time to come. It was during my time with Publix, that my mom and best friend in the world, survived being hit by a car as a pedestrian in the parking lot, watching with our family and the rest of the world terrified as the Twin Towers came down, finally beginning her long battle with Cancer, and eventually succumbing to it.
All the while, I began my pre-college career back in Brooklyn during my senior year of high school, when I was one of six chosen to become a dual enrollment student at Kingsborough Community College in Sheepshead Bay. Although, the experience only lasted two semesters, I was able to make one friend there that I still talk to today. On the other hand, my real college adventure did not begin until September 2011 on Broward College’s Central Campus, where I was first accepted as a disability student, and was able to obtain financial assistance to attend. After which, I had to take a year of remedial math courses, since my skills were found not to be at college level yet. Then, I applied to major in the Physical Therapy program, with a future transfer degree in Occupational Therapy to Nova Southeastern University, where I first discovered my love of science.
Then, about two years later in the summer of 2013, I found that I was beginning to have great difficult in keeping up with my classes and grades. Learning that the medical program may not have been such a good fit for me, my academic adviser suggested that I look into other programs and avenues so to speak. So, she suggested that I go back to the campus career center and take another look at the original intake questionnaire again, to see what other types of programs fall under my responses. Except I already knew that the Teaching Program fell directly under at least four or five of the sections, so I finally had to give in to everyone who pushed me toward a teaching degree. Which I never wanted to take simply because I did not want to spend the rest of my life in school. Although, after some thought I changed my mind when I realized how good I was with little children, I decided to change my major to Early Childhood Education.
Even going so far as to transferring to North campus in 2013. Where I was told at the time held the only education program in the Broward College system. So, I transferred campuses and never looked back for a number of years. Turns out it has been the best thing I ever did for myself, because I got through the DCF 45-hour Childcare Training course. While looking forward to taking the General Knowledge Education Skills Exam (GKE), plus I am also closer to graduation than I would have been before. On top of that, I started out back in 2013 as a member of the Best Buddies Chapter club, then six months later was promoted to Outreach Director, next I was just about to be promoted again to Chapter President when we were forced to shut down.
Due to our Faculty Advisors separation from BC, at which time I was offered the chance to become a local Best buddies Ambassador, at which point I decided to start my own club. The name of which I chose to use was Sammy’s Buddy Brigade after our school mascot, a club that would be more of a on campus friendship club. Unfortunately, after two semesters of not being able to find anyone on the faculty willing to advise the club, I was forced to shut down. Then one of my close friends started a Chapter club for Her Campus, an online Magazine dedicated to Female Empowerment and what is important on campus life across the country and around the world. Where she asked me to join them as her new Outreach Director.
Even though she knew that I had already joined the Science club as their newest member, until she graduated and named me Vice President (VP) under our closest friend who was set to become the newest President. So, I did that for a year, all the while staying on with the Science club. Until, I got word that Science club had plans to promote me to Vice President, and since we cannot be an office in more than one club at a time. I had to resign my post as Vice President of Her Campus, to become the Science clubs newest VP. An honor for which I have been wanting for a long time, and I finally got my chance when the Outgoing President named me as the newest VP on her short list. Now, almost three years later, I am once again being told that I am now at the top of the list to become the newest President of the north campus Science Club as of this Fall. Lucky for me, I am still a single woman with no children, or job at the moment other than schoolwork, and I only have my dad to care for.
I have never really led a spiritual life because my parents were not that into religion, until they come to South Florida, since then my aunt has the family over on the holidays every year, I take off from school for her sake, as she is trying to teach me about my own heritage. Something my parents never really taught me, but I hope to one day learn about. Now, I will try and give you some general information about myself, starting with, what I like most about myself. This would be my willingness to help and be there for others in their time of need. The least thing I like about myself is my Chronic Spasm condition always acting up at the worst possible moments, when you least expect it to. The two biggest things that I admire most in my life is my newfound love of Science and learning. One of the biggest things that I like or admire least in my life is, my inability to locate my fairytale prince charming, to come and sweep me off my feet (HAHAHA)!
This next answer is fairly simple for me really, what I ultimately want to do with my life is to one day become the Lead Teacher of a Special Needs class. To be able to give back all of the love and support that I have had the pleasure of experiencing for most of my life. Now, to sum up my Life Philosophy will not be as easy as the rest of this paper was, simply because it’s hard for anyone to really say that they know how to answer this. So far, I have learned many things throughout my life, such as: a babies firsts, proper nutrition, pet care, forming lasting friendships, strong work ethics, good sportsmanship, financial stability, the list and possibilities are endless. The biggest advice that I would give to a younger version of myself for a successful life is to, never give up hope and to always listen to what your teachers are saying.
Also, that you are your own worst enemy and that you can do anything or be anything you want to be, if you just pay more attention in school and less on the cartoons. The biggest wisdom that I have gained from life so far is that, I can achieve any goal no matter what obstacles stand before me, as long as I never give up on my dream.