Student Stories


My name is Bobby. I am in the 4th grade at Ephesus Elementary.

I am smart, fun, and outgoing child. I am always being told by my teachers and by my mother that I am smarter than what I show. They tell me all the time that I have great “potential.”

My class work and test scores reflect what my teachers and parents say. I have always scored right at or above grade level in reading and math. Last year I passed the math EOG on the first try. It took me two tries to pass the reading EOG but I got a three so I didn’t have to come to summer school!

In class I will sometimes do great work and then at other times I will struggle to complete my homework and class work assignments. I often get caught up in or distracted by what my friends of other kids in class are doing and that makes it hard to do my work. Sometimes I get in trouble and I have been suspended from school once. I never start anything but somehow I always find myself in the middle of problems at recess or on the bus.

I live with my mom; it’s just her and me. She stays on me about school and my potential. She works two jobs to make sure that we have nice things. She always tells me that I need to go to college so I can take care of my family with just one job. She holds me to high expectations at home and expects me to do the same at school. She gets frustrated with me when I don’t do my work and she gets real frustrated with my teachers when they don’t give me the harder work that some kids get.

I love school, I love hanging out with my friends, recess, and my teachers are great. I am excited about middle school in a couple of years. I want to go to college when I finish high school so I can learn and so I can play football.


My Name is Brooke; I am a freshman at Chapel Hill High School.

I am a good student and I get almost all A’s and B’s. I took Algebra I as an 8th grader and got a 4 on the EOC. I also completed Spanish I in middle school. I am currently enrolled in all honors courses but I felt like it was a bit of a fight to get into those classes.

I feel as if people in school often doubt my ability. All through middle school and now in high school I feel like I have to convince teachers and others at school that I am smart and capable. One teacher always asks me if I need help when she sees that I am not doing my work in class. When I tell her I don’t need help and the reason I am not working is because I am done she always says, “Well if you’re sure.” I can’t stand that!

I live with my mom and little sister. My little sister is in 6th grade. I worry about her. She is smart like me, but sometimes I am not sure she is strong enough to advocate for herself the way I had to. I don’t want people to underestimate her because of where we live or what we look like.

I love school, but sometimes it is hard to be one of the only black girls in most of my classes. I know I can handle it and my mom is really supportive. Next year I hope to take all honors or maybe even an AP course. When I graduate I am going to college, there is no doubt in my mind and my mom wouldn’t let me do anything else.


My name is Christine. I am 16 years old and in the 8th grade.

I am in a system level class with six other students. We have three adults to help us in our class. We spend most of the day in our class and sometimes go into other classes like Art and Chorus.

I struggle to communicate with my teachers. This year I got an iPad that can help me talk to teachers and other kids.

This year I am trying hard to learn to read a few books by myself. I like books a lot and I love being read to. Sometimes I wish I could sit in my beanbag all day and have my teacher read me stories.

I live with my mom, dad, and older sister. My sister goes to East Chapel Hill High School and next year she will be going to college. I am going to miss her when she goes because I like taking walks with her through our neighborhood.

Next year I will go to East and I am worried about going to a new class. My mom tells me that it will be another small class like the one I am in now, but I am nervous about having all new teachers after having the same teacher for four years.


My name is Doug. I was eight years old when my parents divorced. Along with my mother and sister, we relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I felt I no longer had a father to help guide me through life’s challenging issues. My mother was now forced to become both mom and dad. It was difficult not having my dad around anymore. My fondest memories of my dad were when he was my youth coach. He was my baseball, football and basketball coach and it was a great time in my life.

It’s been nearly nine years now since my dad was active in my life. Through much prayer, love and encouragement from my mother and sister, I have overcome the hurt and disappointment of growing up without a father. Even though I grew up in a single parent home, I was not going to use adversity as an excuse to fail, but as a driving force to succeed. Watching my mother work two and sometimes three jobs just to keep the lights on and food on the table has been heartbreaking for me. She has truly inspired me to work hard at achieving my dreams.

Today, I am a much better individual due to some of the adversities I have endured. I have developed a strong passion to work hard in school and make the best grades possible. Also, I have learned how to manage money efficiently, and to present myself in a solid respectable manner at all times. Through my Sunday school class at church and a youth leadership club at school, I have learned the importance of volunteering. It’s a rewarding feeling you can only receive by being a volunteer. I am not sure what’s in the future for me, but one thing I am sure of, and that’s I will continue to work hard each day and believe that I can succeed.


My name is Irene and I am a senior at Chapel Hill High School.

My family is financially stable and my parents, my mom especially, have been extremely supportive and involved in my education. If I did not have the support I have had growing up there is no doubt in my mind my life would be radically different. I started school in a different state where my parents and teachers noticed I was struggling. When I was eight, my struggles were finally explained with the diagnosis of severe dyslexia. The diagnosis came almost too late and without the immediate actions my parent took I might have been permanently disabled. These actions included daily, privately paid tutoring, along with in-school remediation, 5th grade at a private school for students with learning disabilities, and after moving to North Carolina in 2005, 6th, 7th, and 9th grade half day at the Hill Center. In 3rd grade I was given an IEP and from 10th grade to the present have had a 504.

Elementary school was very difficult for me, because I didn’t learn to read until 4th grade, much later than my peers. My social skills were slower to develop than my peers’ for two reasons. The first being I was constantly separated from my classmates for remediation and made to stay in the classroom into lunch or recess to finish assignments I was too slow to complete during normal class time. Secondly, I became an easy target for bullying because I was different and hard to relate to, because after all, isn’t reading easy for everyone? I spent middle school playing catch-up and each year of high school has been a surprise. As a freshman I had no idea what I was going to be capable of. This has come back to haunt me recently throughout the college application process because my GPA and class rank are not as competitive as I would like them to be, not because my grades have been poor, but because I was not sure, when entering high school, the course load I was capable of handling. In ninth grade I took one honors class, but as a 12th grader I am taking three APs and two honors classes. Years ago I was labeled as “twice-exceptional”, meaning severely handicapped, but with a well above average IQ score. My SAT score puts me in the top 93% of Americans while my reading speed puts me in the bottom 3% of all American high school students.

At this point in my education I do not need many accommodations. The most important accommodation I have today is extended time. None of my accommodations lesson or “dumb down” my work load. I’m doing the same work, on the same level, as my classmates just with a little more time required to complete work. I have had some amazingly supportive teachers, yet some who believe because of my disability I am not capable of taking his or her class. Each year I happily prove the handful of doubtful teachers wrong and hopefully pave the way for other learning disabled students to succeed without the unnecessary road blocks of their teachers.

I would like to use this opportunity to make the district aware of three things I strongly believe in; 1) Providing even more resources to programs that seek to close the achievement gap with intervention at lower grade levels. 2) It is important to refrain from judging a student because he or she are a certain race, ethnicity, religion etc. or because you, the teacher, were handed a folder at the beginning of the year that identified a student as learning disabled. Wait to make assumptions of a student’s capabilities. 3) As students get older move away from isolating different levels of learners. The new honors classes implemented in the Fall of 2010 are not working and are doing more harm than good. (Note, I am not saying AP or honors classes are bad, but some honors classes are unnecessary.) By separating students for lower level classes, say freshman world history, you prevent struggling students from learning valuable skills from high achieving students as well as preventing high achieving students from exposure to peers who they would not have any other chance to interact with otherwise. The kids who have had it all easy need to see that not everyone is like them, people do not fail merely because they are not trying, and that in whatever the student decides to pursue in life he must consider all people, not just people like himself. That is how we will grow as a society.

Overall the district does a good job with most students, but there is always room for improvement. Fortunately I have the parents I do and have lived in school districts with more resources than most. As a senior I have been forced to reflect on my journey during the college application process. No one would have thought the little girl less than 10 years ago with no reading or writing ability would be applying to some of the top colleges in the country. My success is due largely to the faith and support certain teachers have had in me over the years. There are two wonderful things about this school district. The first is that most teachers care immensely about their students, and I have experienced a lot of this at CHHS. The second is the great diversity within the district. There is diversity of every kind seen daily at each school. This makes the district truly unique and gives experiences to students that he or she could not get anywhere else.

One would not think it, but dyslexia has in the end made me a better student and better person. It has taught me to be hard working, driven, and relentless. I believe, if handled well, dyslexia can become a gift rather than a handicap.


My name is Jeff. I am a freshman at Chapel Hill high school.

I am a good student I get all As and Bs. High school is not as hard as I thought it would be but it’s not easy. I am currently in one honors class and it is also easier than I thought it would be. Whenever I need help with any of my classes, I go to that teacher during lunch.

Throughout elementary and middle school all my teachers cared about me. They wanted me to do well, they saw that I had potential and didn’t want it to go to waste. I think that this was good motivation for me. It is unlikely for you to be successful if people expect you to fail.

I live with my mom, dad and brother. My two sisters are currently in college so I do not see them very often. My sisters did well in high school and I currently have one of their old teachers so he expects me to do well. Both of my parents push me to do well they do the best they can to ensure a good future for me.

Next year, I plan to take 3 honors classes and I am considering taking an AP course. With the support of my parents and teachers I hope to graduate with a perfect GPA and enroll in college.


My name is Joe and I am an 8th grader. I am part of LEAP program and have been since 5th grade.

I have always been told that I am smart and schoolwork has always been easy for me. I grasp new concepts quickly and I like discussing and debating academic ideas.

For the past few years I have struggled with motivation. My standardized test scores have remained very good but I haven’t been making growth and I get mostly B’s and C’s on my report card.

I get poor grades because I only do about half on my homework. The homework I do I do as quickly as possible and it usually isn’t my best work. I like race a friend on mine on our math homework. We send each other a text when we start and another when we finish. The loser has to give the winner the best part of his lunch the next day.

My parents are both working professionals and with their jobs, school, Triangle United, Boy Scouts, and other activities we are all really busy. We don’t get a lot of time to spend together. I have an older sister and she is Miss Perfect. She is a senior at East and she just got in to Duke. She is conscientious, hard working, and popular. It drives me nuts!

I like going to school but mostly just to see my friends. My classes can be challenging but I can get by without much effort. My dad keeps telling me I will need to work harder if I am going to get in to a school like Duke. I guess I’ll have to work a little harder when I get to high school.


My name is Jose; I am in second grade.

I am always just at or under grade level in math and reading is very hard for me. I work with my classroom teacher, my reading teacher, and my English teacher on reading but it is still difficult. I was in first grade for two years because my mom and my teachers thought I needed more time to learn to read.

I have lots of friends at school and I love helping my teachers. All my teachers like me and encourage me to do better. I love to play soccer at recess and I am pretty good at it. Last year I got to play Rainbow Soccer and it was really fun!

I live with my mom. She works at UNC. I spend a lot of time with my Uncles and my cousins while my mom is at work. My dad is in prison and has been since I was really little. He writes my letters but mom says we aren’t allowed to visit.

I speak Spanish at home and with my family. I speak English pretty well and I try to help my mom with English sometimes.

I like school a lot and I want to do well in school. I am worried about EOGs next year and my cousin tells me that middle school is really hard. I am going to keep working hard and I hope that reading will get easier for me by the end of the year.


My name is Katie, and I am a senior at Chapel Hill High School.

Today, I am just like any other high school student, struggling to find time for homework, volunteering and friends. Over the course of my freshman and sophomore years, however, I was struggling with a unique pairing of ailments.

I developed anorexia nervosa the summer before seventh grade, made worse by my family’s relocation and my parent’s marital problems; however, the eating disorder did not seriously begin to interfere with my health or schooling until the ninth grade. I could not manage my eating disorder and meet the high goals and expectations I had set for myself. As a perfectionist I expected nothing less than an A, but thoughts of food were consuming time allocated for studying and school. I could not handle both stresses so I stopped attending school.

My mother could not afford to seek inpatient treatment for my eating disorder so she worked with me to help me overcome my anorexia. After a few months, I had the physical and emotional strength to return to school, but I did not know how I would be able to do so without additional support. Instead of returning directly to school, I enrolled in the Bridge Program, a half day program aimed at reintegrating students into the classroom. The teacher for the program worked with me to develop a plan, which included finishing some of my classes online, and worked with my teachers to help me catch up in my classes. In a little over a month I was able to return to some of my classes full time. By the end of the school year, I was completely caught up.

However over the summer I relapsed. In November of my sophomore year, I sought intensive professional treatment for my eating disorder during which I was unable to attend school.

One month later, I was diagnosed with lymphoma, a single swollen lymph node my only symptom. Yet again I was out of school, this time because of a chemotherapy regimen that weakened my immune system. I was set up with an at-home tutor—the same teacher who had helped me in Bridge—as a part of the Homebound program.

Together we created an academic plan. She set me up to finish English, math and civics online and we worked together to complete chemistry. Eventually I also received an at-home tutor for Spanish. Because of the support I received, I was again able to finish the school year on time.

The Bridge Program continued to support me during my junior year. I used it mostly as a study hall, but it also provided additional support, which I needed because of my decision to fill my schedule with challenging courses such as Advanced Placement Chemistry and Calculus. I also continued with Spanish, enrolling in Honors Spanish III, despite missing almost two years of classroom instruction.

My senior year schedule is equally as challenging, but now I am handling everything fine on my own. If it were not for the people and the programs (Bridge and Homebound) that have supported me through my challenges, I do not know that I could report today that I have straight A’s on my mid-year transcript, and that I am looking forward to graduating on time and going on to college in the fall.


My name is Kristen, and I’m a senior at Chapel Hill High. Everyone’s trying to fix the educational system in America. People are scared because students aren’t performing up to the standards of Asian countries in math and science. We don’t think that students will be able to compete with the rest of the world as our teachers can’t teach, our classrooms are too big, and the achievement gap is too wide. As a senior ending my years in this system, I have a few things to say.

For the majority of students, especially after elementary school, attending classes is the bane of their existence. There are classes students dread to walk into because their teachers fail to engage them in the material or the teachers are so limited in their time to teach, they are unable to act upon their creative plans to get students involved in the curriculum. Now wonder students aren’t interested in their education when they must listen to about 9,000 minutes of boredom per class per year. There have been a few teachers, though, who have found a way to integrate exciting, stimulating projects in the classroom that have truly engaged me as a student.

9th Grade: Design Your Own High School (Ms. Haygood; Chapel Hill High School)

Freshman Honors Geometry was by far the most challenging class I was ever enrolled in. The curriculum was challenging and the tests even more mind-boggling. However, my teacher understood the need to diversify the grading system and made sure there was a major project grade at least once a quarter. These projects either had students learn additional materials about geometry that we wouldn’t cover in class or re-enforce what we were learning at the time. While all of the projects did a great job of doing this, there was one in particular that stood out to me.

Towards the end of the year, Ms. Haygood assigned us a project in which we had to design our own high school. Not only did we have to create a scaled layout of the school that had to meet very specific requirements, but also we had to construct a 3D model of a classroom from our school. In addition, we had to type up a paper highlighting why our “architecture firm” (our group) had the best school design and why we deserved the contract.

11th Grade: Re-enactment of an early 20th Century Strike (Mr. Blackwell; Chapel Hill High School)

AP United States History is one of those classes were I still recall facts and information I learned in the class and am able to intelligently add them to a conversation. While the demanding course load did not allow a lot of room for in-class projects and debates, Mr. Blackwell did give us a third quarter project that forced me to learn more about the early 20th century Ludlow Strike than I probably ever cared to know. That didn’t matter, though, because it was a project where I was excited to learn more about the time period.

The project required us to choose a strike that we thought our group could accurately re-enact as well as provide a detailed background of information on it. Beyond that, the restrictions were few and we were allowed to use our creativity to do whatever we pleased. My group chose to be achrachronological and used 21st century gangsters to represent the oppressive National Guard who brutally cracked down on the 20th century mine protesters. It was a thrilling, goofy, and historically accurate five-minute video.

12th Grade: Presidential Campaign (Mrs. Ballew; Chapel Hill High School)

The most recent, and probably final, creative project I participated in occurred in my AP United States Government and Politics class. Instead of learning about presidential campaigns, we were told we had to conduct our own. We were to form committees with a presidential candidate, campaign manager, propaganda manager, policy expert, media advisor, and press advisor. During the month-long project, we had to meet many deadline requirements that asked that we turn in posters, prepare for a debate, submit a platform, create a media event, respond to a scandal, create a commercial and song, prepare speeches and write a newspaper.

If teachers had the training, time, and ability to allow students to explore topics, perhaps more students would come into their classes interested in learning. Rote memorization is not the solution to becoming competitive with the Asian countries. We need to intelligently create a system where students have mastery of the subject but also continue to stress the creative, innovation genius our country was founded on. It is only when we combine creative genius, an engaging fun classroom setting for all twelve years, and reward teachers who take the time to reinforce an important idea will we once again regain a sense that our children are prepared for the future.


My Name is Susan and I am in 5th grade.

This is my first year in the United States. I moved here in August with my mother. She is studying at the University. My father stayed at home in China to work at his job.

School here is very different than school in China. I am in a class teaches me in English and Chinese. Even though some of school is in Chinese school is still very different. We have a lot more time to play in American school and we get to talk to each other more. We do more writing and make more things here than we did in China. I like American school but it is hard for me to understand when my teacher is speaking English.

Sometimes I have trouble staying organized at school and I lose things a lot. I had this same problem in China but it is worse here because I don’t always understand what my teachers are asking me.

Mom and I will be here for three years and I am hoping that my English will get very good while I am here. When we return to China I know I will need to work hard to successful in high school and college.