When a “success” feels like a failure

2016-03-10

Yes, that is JJ Watt’s mom at the front.

Last night, I brought students from 6 different magnet schools to my district school board meeting. Most of them were the only student from their school there. They spoke genuinely and authentically about the inadequate sports programs at their schools. And as a result, a racially divided board voted unanimously to not take away UIL sports at magnet schools, a drastic change from the heated and racially split vote from the month before.

Yet when I got home that night, I cried.

Why?

Because all the while, while the board members were complimenting the fantastic effort that the students must have put in, every single one of them was looking at the opposite side of the room from where I was sitting with my group.

Because even after spending all the time individually messaging students who I thought may be interested, making sure they had rides, and helping them craft arguments, I didn’t get a chance to talk to all the speakers beforehand as a group. Again, I sped through my speech.

Because even after the meeting, every time I tried talking to a board member, most of them didn’t even remember my name, even though I showed up to every board meeting since January of my junior year. I could blame it on them or on the lack of adults to introduce me, but it was also my simple inability to grasp this thing called “networking”- to start up a conversation, to have something to say, and to start that relationship and keep it going. Every insecurity I had about being an awkward Asian girl trying to fit in came flooding in.

Because it took me nearly a year and a half to even muster up the courage to take a stance on these issues, in my last semester of high school. And I have no guarantee that whoever will take on this role after me will even know why it’s important to come to these meetings, that they’ll face a similar struggle with simply starting that conversation.

Because I get the gut wrenching feeling that even had I not spent all this time getting a racially and socially diverse group of students, the board would have still voted the same way. In other words, we may not have made any impact at all.

On the bright side, some students spoke at their first board meeting on an issue that genuinely mattered to them, an issue that has come up at multiple meetings. This was the first time I had ever attempted anything of the sort.

But really, the atmosphere stuck most with me: After the board announced the result of the vote,  the audience cheered, and the board president rapped his gavel, demanding that the audience not disrupt the meeting. But instead of the solemn hush that characterized most meetings, the crowd laughed in response, releasing all the tension that had built up.  As students and teachers left the room, the board quickly reorganized, relieved that they had gone through the agenda more quickly than they had since the beginning of the school year.

And that made me smile.

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