The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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I’m More Than My Grades
Aishamanne Williams

In elementary school, I was at the top of my class. I made the honor roll and had grades in the 90s. Being known as “smart” was the norm for me and I expected it to last throughout my school career. Now, I feel smarter than ever, but some of my grades don’t reflect that.

Since 6th grade, I’ve been attending Medgar Evers College Preparatory School. At first, I was still getting high 80s and 90s. But in 7th and 8th grade, I took classes that were actually at the high school level, such as physics and trigonometry. They were challenging, and my grades began to slip.

In high school, my math and science grades didn’t improve much, but I found something else that empowered me. I started writing for my school newspaper. It felt good to extend my love for writing into my schoolwork and to develop a presence in school. I reported on school events and people saw my name on my stories. The school newspaper became my “thing.”

In my sophomore year, all the articles I wrote were related to racial issues, politics, and social justice. For example, I wrote about why I think cisgender (which means you identify with your sex assignment at birth) people should be more accepting of the transgender community, and that African-American kids are expected to be more mature than their white counterparts.

More Thinking, Less Testing

In the summer before junior year, I was accepted into the Smart Scholars program at my school, which allowed me to take some college classes. Though I was still struggling with math and science, I’d maintained high grades in English and history, which helped me get into the program.

My first college class was an English course called “Race, Culture, and Borders.” We watched documentaries like What Happened, Miss Simone? and discussed singer Nina Simone’s significance as a black artist and woman and the way her race impacted her life. We had a lot of discussions about current events, social injustices, racial issues, and politics.

One day we were discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, and when I explained why I support it and think that “All Lives Matter” is a tactic used to derail conversations about police brutality, my professor and classmates commented on how insightful my contribution was.

I frequently participated in class discussions; I became known as the girl who had something important to say. I got an A on every essay. Though I’d done well in my high school English classes, this felt like more of an accomplishment because it was college English. Now that I was exposed to the discussion format in this class, I wished all classes could be like this.

image by YC-Art Dept

Need to Raise My GPA

I became so engaged in my English and history classes, where I naturally excelled, that I neglected my math and science courses, which I found more challenging. My grades in those subjects dropped further.

I was discouraged. I got tutored for calculus and AP physics, but I still wasn’t scoring as high on tests as I needed to raise my GPA.

This feeling heightened when I entered junior year this September. I’d be applying to colleges soon. At first, junior year felt like a bus that was going to either run me over or zoom straight past me. I felt ill-prepared.

It upset me that I knew I was smart but didn’t have the GPA to show it. Would that number make college admissions people reject me before they got to know me? I worried that my mediocre grades in math and science would cause colleges to overlook how passionate I was about English, history, and social studies.

Nurturing My Strengths

I decided the best college admissions strategy for me was to get into as many academic and extracurricular programs as possible where I could show my strengths and fully express myself. Besides the Smart Scholars program, I have an internship here at YCteen, I’m the editor-in-chief of my school newspaper, and I’m on the debate team.

All of this is happening while I’m trying to bring up my grades in science and math. I wish colleges put less weight on grade point averages and gave more consideration to who we are as people, how much we have actually retained from school, what we’re doing with this knowledge, and what we have to offer. But the fact that they don’t is an unfortunate reality.

College guidance counselors and teachers emphasize the importance of our grade point averages in the college application. College websites make it seem like they pay attention to all aspects of a student, but researching those colleges and hearing from students who have applied to them shows me that they only pay attention to who you are after they’ve looked at your GPA and your SAT scores. Even the deans of colleges who say they are looking for students who are well-rounded admit the first thing they look at are a student’s grades.

All I can do is try my best and hope that my college application essays and extra activities will illustrate more of who I am. I’m looking forward to being in college classes where the actual learning process is valued and the curriculum isn’t solely based on a test. I hope I’ll be able to take classes that nurture my strengths and challenge me to broaden my perspective. I perform best when I’m pressured to think critically and analyze things, and I think this strength will help me in

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