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Speak Out: Taking Charge
Making Positive Changes
YCteen staff

The new school year is an opportunity for you to make positive changes that can help you be more successful. This often takes some determination. Here, students from Harvest Collegiate High School in Manhattan illustrate how we all have the strength and know-how to help us “let go” of people, attitudes, and behaviors that stand in the way of our progress, and to “hold on” to those that can help us reach our goals.

What is something you’ve had to let go of to be more successful in school?

Ashanti Hollington, 15, 10th grade
I changed my mindset in the middle of the school year; I realized I was only coming to school for fun and that wasn’t getting me anywhere. I’d had a meeting with my mom, my advisor, and the principal—and it wasn’t good. I was failing everything. It wasn’t an overnight change; it took about a month. I made rules for each class and I follow those rules. One is to ask for help when I need it. I struggle with that because I don’t like asking a lot of questions. Now I’m getting A’s and B’s and I feel proud of myself.

Is there anyone in your life that you’ve had to let go of or be less close to so that you could take a more positive path?

Tyriq Morgan, 17, 10th grade
I was too focused on my friends. I kept finding excuses to leave class a lot and then I started failing and that’s when I realized they’re still going to be there after school. I’m still friends with them but I’ve set boundaries. There’s a time when I have to be in class, and then there’s a time when I can hang out with them. I used to go to the park with my friends after school and not do my homework, but I stopped that too.

Griselda Agustin, 15, 10th grade
My godmother is very religious, and she recently started asking me to go to church after school. I have a lot of homework and projects and because I’m the oldest I have to take care of my two younger siblings, so it’s difficult for me to do that. But I went once and then went home, did my schoolwork, and cooked for my sisters. For the next month she kept asking me to go church to participate in ceremonies and do volunteer work. So I had to tell her I have different priorities right now, and fortunately she understood.

Is there anyone who helps you be your better self?

Bella Lecrichia, 14, 9th grade
I get good grades and I try hard in school but some of my friends really don’t care about school. When I’m around them it makes me less concerned about school too. But my friend Rrezarta is even more concerned than I am. If she gets an A- instead of an A she’ll be mad. Being with her makes me want to work more and we work really hard together because we both want to do something with our futures that is important and good for the world. We edit each other’s essays and help each other with math projects. She’s not just my friend socially, she’s my friend academically.

Angelica Baez, 16, 10th grade
Before I met my boyfriend I was doing badly in school because I was having a hard time at home. My grades were bad, and I was just focused on my friends. But he’s smart and a good student and he influenced me to do better and get extra help after school. He’s a real support; there are times when I’m sad and he brings me back up. I still have the issues at home, but he helps me and distracts me. I guess I just need someone to be there.

Did you have a goal at the beginning of the school year?

Tristan deLange, 15, 10th grade
For the past couple of years, I haven’t felt good; my home life isn’t great. So my goal for this year was to be happier with myself. At my old school I had no friends. When I came to this school last year, I decided to be more outgoing so I could make friends. On my first day, I heard some kids talking about a TV show I liked and I forced myself to discuss it with them so we could connect. At my old school I failed a class every semester, but so far this semester I have straight A’s. I stopped looking at everything as an opportunity to fail. I was able to separate from the issues at home when I found things to calm me down, like sailing or running on the boardwalk.

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