It doesn’t matter if you were an honor roll student last year or if you were barely passing classes. Every student gets a fresh start Monday on the first day of school.
I can promise you, every teacher’s grade book will be blank when the first bell rings. Every student, in every class, in every school, will start off on the same playing field, with the same opportunities.
You won’t be able to sail by on last semester’s straight As, nor can you use the excuse of previous Cs and Ds to hold you back from doing better this year.
I was always both nervous and excited about the first day of school while growing up and I bet many of you students are, too. Every new year holds promise and hope. You’ll make new friends, explore new interests and be able to challenge yourself personally and academically.
To do this successfully, though, you need “attitude!”
Your “attitude” is not a matter of how your teachers, parents or friends view you, although they can make a difference. What determines your success is how you see yourself.
I’m talking about having an “I can do it” attitude.
I’ll start by telling you about my “attitude” in eighth grade at Portales Junior High School. I am not proud of it. I thought it was cool to make bad grades like some of my friends so we could be in the same classes together.
By my freshman year in high school, however, it was a different story. Many of my friends started dropping out. I was sad when one of my best friends quit school to get married. When I visited her, I knew she wasn’t happy. That got me started thinking seriously about my own future.
Now I’ll tell you about my “attitude” at the end of my sophomore year at Portales High School. That is when I knew I wanted to become a writer after reading New Mexico writer Rudolfo Anaya’s books.
That was the year I became determined to go to college (a little late by today’s standards; please don’t wait that long). That was the year I went to Mrs. Brown and told her I wanted to be on the school newspaper staff even though I didn’t meet the 3.0 grade point average requirement. Mrs. Brown let me on the Rampage staff on a probationary basis and that year I made the “B” honor roll for the first time in my life.
My junior year was also the year I met my favorite teacher, Chuck Abbott. Mr. Abbott was my DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) teacher and he helped me fill out a college application. Mr. Abbott had an Eastern New Mexico University course book, and together we sat down and made an outline of every class I would have to take to earn a college degree in journalism.
Teachers like this, who go above and beyond the call of duty, make a big difference in your life.
During my senior year of high school, I went to Talent Day at ENMU. I took my parents’ car and had a flat tire on the way. My dad wasn’t too happy when I called him. I was so upset that I was going to be late, afraid I wouldn’t be allowed to register for the event, that I was in tears and almost didn’t go.
When I came home that afternoon and told my parents about the journalism scholarship I won that day, it was only then that they fully realized what was going on. I was really going to college. And now, 13 years later, I still haven’t stopped learning. I’m going back to ENMU this fall to begin work on a master’s degree in communications.
No one said the road to success is easy. I can testify to that. But someday you’ll look back and be glad you made the right choices for yourself. Your friends will not be there with you. They’ve got their own lives to live; their own choices to make. It’ll only be you and your future — and the possibilities are unlimited.
So remember, when the going gets tough this school year, stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, and give it everything you’ve got! Everything!
Helena Rodriguez is lifestyles coordinator for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: