By Carter Swank
First Place Winner of the Zane State College Spring Semester Student Writing Contest
Growing up, I was always an honor roll student. Most of my family worked in the schools so keeping up on my grades and being a good student was very important. I was placed in a program for gifted students when I was in third grade. I really enjoyed the program because of my love of learning. I stayed for the entirety of the program until its end in eighth grade. The program set me up for success in my following high school years, or so I had thought.
The beginning of high school started like any other year. My schedule was packed with honors classes, electives, class officer duties, and the varsity soccer team. Although I did not keep up my straight As, I was able to stay on the honor roll. It seemed like high school was going to be a breeze just like elementary and middle school until the middle of my junior year. Everyone always said junior year is the worst, because it was when the stress of picking colleges starts and you begin figuring out the rest of your life. That is what I had planned to be dealing with, but instead I was faced with a different kind of stress that no program could have prepared me for.
On April 26, 2011, I lost one of my friends, and on May 19, 2011, I lost my best friend as well. I was in school when I heard the news for both, and these events would change my life forever. My goal of the perfect college with straight As was shot out of the window, and I fell into a deep depression that summer. My depression spilled into my senior year, for which I had already scheduled my normal full course load of AP and college courses. The weight of my grief, PTSD and workload grew each day until the return of winter break. Three days after returning, I decided to withdraw from in–class schooling and continue online. My grades had dropped to almost all Fs, and this would be my only way to graduate. I had given up on everything, including having a college degree and was now just hoping to get through high school. After finally graduating, I said goodbye to school and hoped to never return.
Almost a decade later, I still had no desire for a higher education. I was content working and just living life until COVID started in 2020. I suddenly had too much time on my hands, and it left me to the conclusion that I wanted more in life. To do so, I would have to return to the one thing that had terrified me for so long… school. Like the sun coming out after a dark storm, Zane State College entered my life. It seemed like every member of staff that I met wanted nothing but success for their students. They were there to help me schedule classes, find the classrooms, join extra-curricular activities, and even fill out my FASFA. I would have never been able to face my fears and get the higher education that I craved without the constant support from Zane State College and its faculty.