ESS 2021: After trauma, student tackles bold plan to get back on track
August 23, 2021
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Neomi Chavez
Grade: 12
School: Lathrop High School District: Manteca USD ACSA region: 7 Neomi Chavez was a typical 8th grader. She earned excellent grades, enjoyed playing sports, and was looking forward to attending high school. Then, during the summer before freshman year, Neomi was assaulted, causing her life to begin spiraling downward. Anxiety, depression, risky behavior and shame began to emotionally drown her. Her grades, attendance and friendships began to suffer.
At her lowest point, some very special adults entered her life: her high school counselors. Together with Neomi, they realized they needed to develop a plan to turn her life around. In Neomi’s words, the plan was “scary,” but she knew she had no other choice.
This path led to her achieving in the classroom again. She dreams of becoming a neurologist and one day helping students overcome the same adversity and trauma that she experienced. Neomi says, “My trauma is part of me, but it’s not me.”
You’ve made it clear that leadership roles in athletics and academics are important to you. Why is that?
Being a team leader, I feel like you get to help your other players strive to be who they want to be. I feel like being a leader period, you get to teach other people about confidence and building their strength to do what they want to do.
At the age of 13, you experienced a sexual assault. Can you describe the way this trauma impacted you? It was very hard to talk to new people. I kind of really isolated myself and kept to myself which is why I wasn’t going to school as much. I was very afraid that I was going to be too vulnerable to other people. So, I kept my distance. My PTSD would probably be not talking to men at all. I would be very scared to even come near them, which is another reason I isolated myself. It messed up my school schedule a lot and really took a big toll on me.
What would you like to share about how your academic counselor Lisa Wilson changed your life? She is amazing. I came to her one day and I just let it all out. She was there with no hesitation ready to help me which I just appreciate so much. She really helped me to stay in high school. And now, I’m here, a senior doing really well this year. I’m super proud of myself. And I can’t thank anyone but Lisa because she really tried to keep me in here.
You made the decision to enroll in night school to catch up on your academics. What was that experience like for you? It was definitely a challenge. I had to go to night school right after school because I was able to pick my time. There were days where I wouldn’t go at all because I wasn’t feeling it. And there were days where I would just tell myself, ‘This is going to help me get better. And I’ve got to start somewhere so I’m going to start here.’ My mom definitely motivated me because I definitely cherish and appreciate my mom a lot. Her thoughts really do get me so I didn’t want to disappoint her.
What advice would you give to other students who experienced similar challenges? It is definitely hard. You will have those days where it’s very hard. But I guarantee you that communication is key. And if you talk about it, it will make you feel a lot better. Focus on what you have to do. Don’t let what happened to you define you, because it is not you.
ACSA Region 7 2021 Every Student Succeeding winner Neomi Chavez.
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