Don’t Give Up




At the age of 16 I had to take on such huge responsibilities. Becoming the matriarch of my family at such a young age was so hard on me. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry, did most of the shopping, and made sure my younger siblings were maintaining good grades in school. All while attending school myself. There were many days I contemplated dropping out because I was exhausted. Mentally and physically. My grades started dropping drastically and my attendance was even worse, but I paid that no mind. I always thought to myself if my own family could care less about my wellbeing and my grades, why should I? It wasn’t until I had a long talk with my pre-calculus teacher, Mr. Brennan, that I became fully aware of my unrealized ability.

On the first day of my senior year I remember walking in this freezing cold room filled with dull faces and quickly noticing that I was the only African American in the occupied space.. It got so quiet when I strolled in. You could seriously hear a rat pee on cotton. We started doing work right away and all of a sudden he yelled “Ms. Alston, what’s the answer?” I wasn’t paying attention so I had no idea.  I didn’t care about passing at all. I was just in attendance so my dad wouldn’t end up in court on my behalf.  I made up some random number and then everyone burst out in laughter. I even heard this guy say “what a dummy.” I was so embarrassed and Mr. Brennan could tell. He pulled me to the side after class that day and said “Don’t be embarrassed, we’ve all gotten a question or two wrong before, but from looking at your records and talking to your previous geometry teacher, I know for a fact you knew that answer. I know you’re smart, I see your potential, and I know you won’t disappoint me or yourself from this point forward.” I thought long and hard about what he said, and he was right.  Ever since that day I began taking school a lot more seriously. My days were still tough because I continued playing the “parent” role, but I made time to do whatever was necessary to graduate.  It felt good knowing that someone cared. He even bragged about my intelligence to his other students, and he always made sure I knew that I could  be great at anything I put my mind to. My GPA rose tremendously and I ended up having the highest average in that class. Just about everyone was asking me, the “dummy,” for help.  It felt amazing to prove so many people, even myself, wrong.

If you’re struggling with school and think it’s impossible to pass I just want you to know nothing worthwhile comes easy. You will face challenges whether you’re raising a child, working nonstop, or even just piling yourself up with too much work. There will be moments you’ll doubt your ability to succeed, but don’t give up. Don’t let your doubts defeat you. There might be days you’ll feel as if you have no one to confide in. No one who will even begin to understand what you’re going through, but at the end of the day all you need is yourself.  Believe in yourself. You can do it; just wait it out and try your best, and I promise it will get better.


FantasiaFantasia Alston is a 22 year old free spirit  and visionary who spends most of her time  writing poetry, reading (preferably mystery books), and doing whatever she can to help better the community. Whether it be volunteering at the nearest homeless shelter or picking up any litter found on the solid surface of the Earth. She also enjoys painting whatever comes to mind, cooking, meditating,  and taking long walks to nowhere.  She currently resides in Columbia, SC, but grew up 3 hours away in a beautiful, yet small, city named Murrells Inlet. She is the second oldest of 8 children, and the eldest daughter. Being the matriarch of the family was tough on her, but she managed to stay strong for her younger siblings and remained focused  to complete school. Although she graduated high school with an outstanding  GPA, and  always had a passion for attaining knowledge, Fantasia continuously put college on the back burner. She was lost and didn’t want to push herself into a mainstream culture where you have to graduate from high school by 18, graduate from college by 22, start working full-time in the corporate world immediately, and then get married, buy the proverbial house with the white picket fence and have kids. That might’ve been  a great idea for her fellow classmates, but not her. After years of soul searching and finding out what career would bring  her the most joy in life, she has decided that earning her degree would be best. She now has plans  to attend a university and work towards becoming a child psychotherapist.

You Don’t Have to Like School


school hallway blur


My mother always told me that I had to do well in school. She never showed me how, but it was drilled in my head for as long as I could write that I was supposed to be ‘smart’ and do well in school to uplift my family and my race.

Honestly, I never even liked school. I always felt like someone else in the classroom, save for when I was sharing or writing an essay, creating art performing a play. I felt stifled being forced to learn many difficult things that did not benefit my mood or my future. To top it all off, I was the ‘contaminated’ kid. Talk or befriend me and you were automatically a target in elementary school. I was a social outcast and although middle and high school wasn’t as bad as elementary school, I never regained my appreciation for school. I skipped a lot, and being in the academic environment gave me headaches. So, why am I even here?

In my junior year of high school I was convinced I was going to illustrate and create comic book characters. I had a low GPA at that time and I was going to spend all of my time drawing so I could be good enough to get out of school and never return. One day, my peers and I were having a conversation about college, perhaps brought about by our teacher and I listened to what they we’re saying. Everyone wanted money. No one really had a drive to learn; it was always a decision made for them before they could even speak. I didn’t want to go. The sedentary lifestyle wasn’t for me. I wanted to do and make… and that’s when I really learned what school was about. My mother, although pushing me to make a name for myself in school, never really explained how to get in to college or what exactly what was. She never explained to me the importance of a good work ethic in high school; she only said that it was something I had to maintain. I think my mother gave up on me a long time ago. I couldn’t blame her. But I did want to prove her wrong.  And I wanted to go to school- not to prove my mother wrong but simply because I found out that you had a choice to learn skills that you want to learn. I did not know it was possible before to learn so much in school. I thought college was only for the doctors, businessmen and women, lawyers and scientists of the world. It never dawned on me that I would be learning skills I wanted to learn and choosing a path that best fit me.

Even after my ‘groundbreaking’ discovery school did not get much easier for me, but I worked

 hard. In my last two years of high school I had about a 3.8 average compared to my first two years leveling out to about 2.5. It felt good to prove everyone wrong, and I did. Then, I still had hopes of being an artist, but I’ve changed I will continue to and the great part is my education can change with me. Even know, I’m thinking of changing to a theater major and I know if I hadn’t continued my education and tried so hard I wouldn’t of had a chance to figure out what I want and what best suits me. Education is, to me, important not because I want to make anyone proud of me anymore, but because I’m learning about the things that make me happy and will mold me into a person that can give back to the world. Sometimes school isn’t for everyone but if there’s a better way to learn and grow among a community of lost intellectuals just like me, let me know. I still don’t appreciate carrying around books all the time and bad school food or spending hours reading boring texts, but I know I’m going to find my place here soon.

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JenniferJennifer Lee is a freshman at VCU currently studying Africana Studies and English. She grew up all around Virginia and enjoys trees, sunshine, driving, and good books. She hopes to become a writer, actress and an activist. She considers herself an average student but says she has an amazing brain and she hopes to empower those that are as lost as she is.