Natalie had a lot on her plate.
With cheerleading practice, homework, distractions at home, and navigating the ins and outs of friends and foes in school, it was a lot for a student to manage.
At first, going to an after-school program through The ROCK Center for Youth Development was a simple solution to kill time.
“I’d cheer after school at 3:30, and we get out of school at 2:40, so I needed somewhere to go,” Natalie said. “My mom thought it was a good idea because she wouldn’t have to worry about picking me up. It would save time, I could eat a snack, hang out and then head to cheerleading practice.”
But the after-school program quickly became much more than a convenience in between school and practice for Natalie.
While she excelled in her classes (“I can do Math problems all day”) Natalie continuously struggled in history.
She found help at The ROCK. Surrounded by supportive staff members and friendly faces, it gave her a place to focus on her homework without the distractions of home and life.
“I don’t remember history very well, and I always have to go back to re-read the text,” she said. “It’s hard to understand. The staff at the after-school program really helped me get that down. Plus I always knew I was able to do my homework there instead of home and I could really focus because I wouldn’t have the distractions.
Natalie also found it helpful to ask the staff for their opinion on her essays.
“I’d write something for my homework, and I’d be able to ask one staff member what they thought, then another and another,” she said. “It was helpful to get different perspectives.”
Natalie’s grades improved, and so did her confidence in her classes.
Though her homework was improving, Natalie faced a test of a different sort: bullying. A fellow student would say negative things to her in class. One day, he pushed her into a locker. Then he started spreading rumors.
Natalie’s negative self-talk went into a downward spiral.
“I defended myself the best I could, but I needed an extra push to be positive,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this’.”
Natalie shared the situation with staff members when she was at The ROCK. They gave her advice and a listening ear…not just one afternoon, but whenever she needed to talk.
“These two staff members talked to me every day and really motivated me,” she said. “One person gave me a piece of paper with different coping strategies. Ever since they gave me that piece of paper, it’s stuck with me and helped me to feel like, ‘Hey, I’m not lonely.’
“I CAN NEVER REPAY THEM”
Natalie said she owes her positive attitude to the after-school program. She goes there four or five days a week. She loves it.
She said if she didn’t go, she’d feel more down and less positive. Her grades would not be all As like they are now.
“I will never, ever be able to repay them for what they have done for me,” she said. “The ROCK is a place I can go if I need emotional support or if I’m having a bad day. They’re a big community that helps people make better choices. They’ve made a real difference and a huge impact on my life.”
WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.