When Jasmine Burkes entered through the doors of her high school, she was excited to start off this new milestone in her life. She thought her high school experience would be something similar to what is portrayed in movies and television shows, but she soon realized that her reality would be very different.
Ninth grade was not too hard for Jasmine in terms of classes, but it took time for her to adjust to high school. The biggest difference she felt was with how independent the teachers expected her and her classmates to be and how students had to shoulder more of the responsibility for their own learning. She liked the freedom of high school but she soon realized the downside of so much freedom. Jasmine learned to become more responsible and as the year progressed she adapted to the environment, just like all the other students.
Even though academics became easier for Jasmine after a while, high school was still challenging for her. Being the only African-American in the entire school, she would often get bullied. For the first two years of high school, she was able to ignore it and stay strong, but once she entered junior year, she became the target of many more bullies and she had a hard time being unaffected.
She was amazed by how fast the first two years of high school went by and still found it hard to believe that she was a junior and would be heading off to college soon. At night, sometimes she had a hard time sleeping because her brain would be awake wondering if she would ever get into a good college that her parents would approve of. Jasmine then realized that she would have to start researching colleges and visiting them since she would have to apply to them soon. In addition to all of this, Jasmine still had not finished her SAT which had become one of the biggest stressors in her life. She felt as if she was an Instant Pot, waiting to burst with all of the stress and anxiety in her life.
The bullying that Jasmine experienced in high school was slowly affecting her performance in school and preparation for the SAT. Her grades were dropping and self-hate and negativity were beginning to engulf her life. Jasmine did not want to tell her parents about the bullying in school because she did not want to appear weak and she preferred to deal with the situation on her own. Day by day, she isolated herself from her family and stopped participating in activities that she would typically enjoy. After a few weeks, Jasmine’s parents noticed that she was not acting like herself. They decided to talk to the school principal to see if others had noticed a difference in Jasmine. Her parents then found out that Jasmine had been bullied since Freshman year and they felt terrible that they did not know before. Knowing this, her parents felt that the best way to help Jasmine’s mental health was to send her to a psychologist for at least a few weeks.
At first, Jasmine hated going to her psychologist and feared that if her classmates knew that she was going to a psychologist once a week, that the bullying would become worse. A few weeks passed and Jasmine noticed that she felt better about herself and her mental health was improving slowly. Jasmine’s psychologist educated her on how to deal with bullies without resorting to violence and assisted her in building her self-esteem and confidence. She decided to follow her psychologist’s advice and was able to concentrate more in class. As a result, her grades rose, and she was able to prepare for the SAT more effectively.
Jasmine took her SAT, which she scored well on, and she finished Junior year with good grades. Because of her grades and her SAT score, she felt more confident about the college application process. This led to her reflecting on how sad and depressed she felt before she went to see a psychologist. Jasmine realized that she should have informed her parents about her situation at school sooner, which could have led to her having better mental health. Jasmine made a promise to herself that if she ever felt depressed and sad like she did before that she would not wait to receive help because that would only benefit her in the future.
[By Nithya Burisetty, Sai Vignathri Vaddi – student volunteers]