Five years ago I walked into class not knowing how my day would go. Would I be laughed at when I changed in the locker room or pushed into a wall on my way to science? I knew for sure that I would go home crying at least once a week.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth grades were the worst three years of my life.

When I moved to Sacramento from Michigan when I was 8, I did not expect my life to change so drastically.

But within my first week at my new school, Sierra Oaks, I was already getting dirty looks.

Girls would look at me, snicker, and turn around.

I felt like a total freak. Looking back, I can’t believe kids could be so rude when they were only 9 years old.

Fifth grade didn’t get any better.

Girls and boys started calling me names and making fun of me, calling me “Gorilla Girl” because I never shaved my legs.

When I walked to my classes, people would talk about me, acting like they were whispering when they actually wanted me to hear.

I never told my parents because I thought I could handle it. That was until sixth grade, when a girl punched me at after-school camp.

While running to the swings, I had accidentally nudged her shoulder. She pushed me around a bit, I pushed back, and it got ugly.

That day I went home and told my parents everything.

I was ecstatic when we agreed that it was time to change schools.

And so I came to Country Day.

In the first week here I didn’t get dirty looks. I got smiles and friends.

Girls and boys didn’t look at me and laugh. They never made me feel like a freak.

I felt as though I had been accepted into a family of friends.

And the best part was that I never had to change myself to be who I am today.

Here at SCDS, children are taught to accept people for who they are from kindergarten.

At Sierra Oaks prevention of bullying was never part of the curriculum, except for one class in my three years there.

When I came here, no one discouraged me or gave me looks of disapproval. Instead everyone supported whatever weird, wacky or crazy thing I did, which often made them laugh.

Because of this I am not afraid to speak my mind, get up in front of a class and debate, or burst out dancing in the freshman quad. And if you know me, you also know that is exactly what I do every day.

If Sierra Oaks had dealt with bullying, then my time there would have created better memories.

But if that had happened, I would never have the insight, friends and opportunities I have today.

That’s why I would like to thank SCDS for being my home away from home—and giving me back my courage, hope, and self esteem.

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