My turnaround: A VOICES essay in overcoming challenges in learning

This essay is part of the 2018 essay series "VOICES: Overcoming Challenges in Learning" from Michigan Nightlight. In this series, we will feature the authentic voices of teachers, parents, students, administrators, counselors, medical practitioners, and others about a challenge to learning they’ve encountered and how they are working to overcome it.
Que’Anna Jackson struggled to find her place in school, often preferring popularity over studying. But her siblings, as well as the Challenge Scholars Program, inspired her that she could do better. This is her story, from her perspective.
Growing up with three other siblings is not the easiest, especially when you're the youngest child. I looked up to each and every one of my siblings, each showing me different pathways.

My oldest sister is six years older than me. She struggled in school, showing me the pathway to popularity, fun, and not caring much about my grades. So I tried that, hoping I would fit in. By the time I was in sixth grade I was not so good school. This was my number one priority, to fit in and not care about my grades. Especially by the kids around me not caring about their grades; it affected me in a bad way.

Path A did not work out so well, so I took a look at my older brother. My brother was pulling average grades around this time. He also played sports. I was half way through sixth grade and my mother switched my school; I figured it was time for a change. So I tried to do the same, trying to get my grades up and trying out sports. I managed to pull my grades up to C's and B’s. The school year ended and I was in the seventh grade now. I was still interested in being like my brother, so I tried out for cheer. I got in but I wasn’t comfortable with this decision. So I finished off my seventh grade year lost and confused.

I was in the eight grade now trying my best but still only getting C’s barely B’s. I had my teachers telling me, “Your going to be something one day.” And I used to doubt myself and question my abilities. But then I looked up to my other sister. I saw she was doing great in school and was pulling straight A’s and getting all the recognition from the family.

At that moment, I realized maybe I should start caring about my grades. So halfway through my eighth grade year I saw my grades improving, but not as much as I wanted them to.

Coming into my freshman year, we had this huge assembly talking about this Challenge Scholars program. I thought back to middle school and remembered someone talking about this program. At that moment it all hit me: this is what everyone been telling me all along. I was not alone. I had teachers, principals, administrators, and counselors all by my side pushing me and telling me to keep going. The Challenge Scholars program helped me realize the importance of my grades, tests, and attendance. And so all through my freshman year, I managed to pull all straight A’s.

My oldest sister struggled but managed to finish high school and get her diploma. My brother also finished high school and now is a college student who attends at Sinclair Community College. My other sister is also a student here at Union High School finishing up her senior year strong, preparing herself for college. Now I am a sophomore student with a 3.8 GPA and working very hard.

I am hoping that my story inspires you. If you try your best you can accomplish anything, trust me I did it and you can to. My name is Que’Anna Jackson and I am going places.

Que’Anna Jackson is a sophomore at Union City High School of Grand Rapids Public Schools. Jackson also works at New City Kids, where she is an assistant team leader who teachers drums and is a positive role model for all younger students in the program. She also sings, acts, and participates in backstage management for yearly productions by New City Kids.

At GRPS, she is a member of the TRIO Program. Jackson also enjoys all types of music, hoping to pursue a career in the medical field. Her faith is very important to her and loves to lead worships at different churches. Jackson is a Challenge Scholar in the class of 2020.

This article is part of Michigan Nightlight, a series of stories about the programs and people that positively impact the lives of Michigan kids. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read more in the series here.

Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Public Schools.
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