Oh teenager, miserable, lost, teenager Noushka, if I could speak to you now! The teenage years of my life were far from a walk in the park. I struggled a lot with finding my voice, being interested in school, listening to my mom, and knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Simply put, I was lost. Prancing around my high school for two years, I came to realize that I would never receive a diploma if I didn’t do something. So, that is exactly what I did: something.
That something was an opportunity that was almost unreal: to go away to a military school founded by the United States National Guard all the way in Starke, Fla. and walk away with a high school degree in a short time frame. So I did it; I completed the program at 16-years old and walked away with my high school diploma. At the time, I was so happy. I thought that it was the best piece of paper I could have ever gotten. But wait, just a high school diploma? I was bouncing off the walls, with no idea that the moment I graduated, real life would begin.
Well, that real life came. But, there was one major problem: I wasn’t treating it like my real life. I ended up spending four years frolicking around with friends, from job to job, and entering community colleges, only to walk away from them. I spent my time focused on boyfriends, spent all of my limited money on materialistic things, not remembering to save a dime, and picked up horrible recreational behaviors. In a nutshell, I was a lost little girl, focused only on my present day, not the future.
In March 2010, I attended an open house for some university. I’d previously heard about it in passing, but wrote it off in my mind. I thought that a lost little teenager never had a chance at attending a university and actually walking away with a diploma. I didn’t even think I could pass any college-level classes, only because my mind was forever clouded with so much junk. At that open house, I had a feeling of joy because I knew I was capable of doing it if I actually tried. Now, I would actually have to try.
At a whopping 20 years of age, I entered Nova Southeastern University. For a person who graduated high school at 16, why was I entering college at 20? But you know what? I decided to leave my past failures on the stairs of the Parker Building to be swept away.
I quickly realized that NSU was where I wanted to be. I would do all I could to stay and finish what I started – something I’d never done before. My first semester was marvelous; I even made the Dean’s List and met Allison Brimmer, a wonderful, bubbly young professor. I was in her composition class one day when she mentioned something about a group of girls coming from an at-risk high school. She said that she would be delighted if some college students would come and share why they loved college.
The PACE Center is an all-girls’ high school that provides a second chance for girls who were having difficulty attending a traditional facility. The young women come from all walks of life. Through the American Association of Undergraduate Women, they have been coming on field trips to NSU for many years now.
Sept. 2010 was my first time meeting these teenage girls. And it sounds crazy but, I didn’t know why I should speak to them. I knew how hard of hearing I was when I was a teenager. Why would I ever want to deal with another teenager ever again? Well, I was wrong; they were all willing to share their story. So, I began to share mine. I knew that I would have to be very transparent with the girls, so that they would feel comfortable telling me about their lives. Then, we could work on solutions for their social problems.
See, my philosophy is that we can never focus on college, or anything else for that matter, if we have all this clutter in our lives. I know firsthand. I’d tried college before, but was never able to get far because of my gleaming teenage eyes, which glowed for all the wrong reasons. I constantly advised these young women to weed out problem areas in their lives. Otherwise, they would have an extremely difficult time in college. I am willing to share the things that shame me the most, because I want the PACE girls to understand that I am not here to point a finger. I’m here to help them, listen to them and actually care for them. I want them to strive for better lives.
That girl who thought it was impossible to ever move forward, to ever get college credits, to change her life is, believe it or not, now a mentor. Quite frankly, I can’t believe it. I have found what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I can say with complete conviction that I love it.