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The New Me! By Sammie

“Lisa Leimberman-Wang once said, ‘You’re not your mistakes. They are what you did not who you are.’

Hi! My name is Sammie and you might recognize me because this is actually my third year of participating in the Speech Contest here at Tennyson. In previous years, I spoke about some really dark things that were going on in my life.

I lost a friend to suicide after being cyber-bullied. I also talked about the effects of social media on body image and self-worth. Doing the speech contest was a great way for me to summarize those experiences.

Today, I would like to talk to you about turning 18. I had a set picture of what 18 was supposed to look like. I thought I would have everything together; I would know everything. I was going to be able to leave my home, where I was constantly being put down, not supported, and made to feel like a failure. The world was going to make sense, and everything would come easy. But I was wrong.

Turning 18 was harder than I expected. I have more responsibilities, which I expected, but I also have way more freedoms. Honestly, the freedoms are harder than the responsibilities. Being able to ’do more things’ means that I have way more chances to fall back into bad habits. I have to remember that my choices have consequences and those consequences are major now. When I was a kid, violence was one of the ways I dealt with my feelings. Now I know that becoming violent could land me in jail. I have had to try and use more empathy and sympathy to deal with other people. It helps me to remember that maybe they are having a bad day and I should give them a break. Doing that allows me to see them differently, which then helps me see myself differently. Remember: ‘You are not your mistakes.’

Since turning 18 I’ve left my family’s home. I spent my first week living with a friend, and she quickly became really toxic. I could have stayed and fallen down the path that my family always thought I would. There were drugs in the home, she didn’t work or go to school. Although I thought she was a good friend—we had plenty of life experiences in common—she was not the type of person I want surrounding me. I knew this wasn’t the place I wanted to live.

This is not how I expected it would be. People told me I would be a dropout, that I would end up like my bio mom, who was a drug addict. All my messages were negative. When you hear something for long enough, you start to believe it. I looked at this ‘friend’ and realized this was not how I wanted to live my life.

Then one day I was here at Tennyson in a staffing and I really wanted to just run away and stop hearing what they were saying. I had missed over a month of school and, because of my behaviors, they were trying to force me to stay at Tennyson. I started to think that I wasn’t going to achieve anything. I literally told everybody that I was going to drop out, I was done with school, and I had absolutely no hope.

Miss Djuana pulled me out of that staffing and said, ‘Have you started thinking about your capstone project?’ I didn’t even know what that was. She explained that it is something you do when you are graduating and, honestly, I hadn’t even thought about graduating. Remember—I thought I wasn’t worthy of that. But Miss Djuana made it clear that I was actually really close to graduation. That it was totally possible for me, and I suddenly had a goal. This was my life changing moment! I knew I didn’t have to be defined by my mistakes or by what others thought of me. I found a confidence in my own skin that I had never felt. I felt proud and successful. I could see that the negative words of others were just that: words. But my actions showed that I was worthy of graduation and a successful life.

I made the responsible choice to leave my toxic friend, and now I am living with another friend and his family. Things feel better here. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong. They support my choices, they encourage me to do well. They remind me that they are here for me and want the best for me. They are supporting me in getting a car, going to college, and being the kind of adult I always wanted to be. Every day, they tell me that I am worthy of a good life. My capstone project is coming out amazing! I’m so excited for it!

For the first time ever, I have hope.

I remember sitting here last year listening to Don talk about his childhood and how he found success in a speech contest. I am so proud to tell you that, because I found my own self-worth and believed in myself instead of what others thought of me, on May 27th I will become a member of the graduating class of 2020.

Sky is the limit for me!”

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