Riley walked reverently into DeBlakey Prep. Her heart pounding with excitement. DBP was a prestigious magnet (public high) school that offered courses designed to attract the most talented students. She WAS HERE … she could not believe her good fortune. She had waited so long for this day, wading thru admissions testing, waiting lists, and neighborhood quotas. Well, there were not many from HER neighborhood here. When it came to socioeconomic status she was def at the bottom in this place. For Riley it did not matter, she was eager to be immersed in the classes and clubs and to study alongside students who shared her passion for the art of public speaking. She dreamed of all she could learn from this place!
Her decision to attend DBP had not come without a cost. Prior to her arrival here she had attended PS12 Franklin Beenson High, a large bustling urban High School. She had lots of friends there and some that went back to elementary school. She would miss them terribly! While they too would be sad, her friends assured her that they were glad for her. This would be too good of an opportunity to pass up. They had heard her give talks many times and loved the things she would speak of. They were proud of their friend.
Riley was a talkative girl so she made a few friends early on. Su Xia, the Chinese exchange student was one of the first. Riley enjoyed her sharp wit and even sharper tongue!
Hope Weiss was a quiet person and, in Riley’s opinion, the most un-celebrated talent in all of DBP. Riley loved the few and far between times when Hope opened up and spilled a bit of that wonderful mind of hers!
Then there was darling Brooke. Brooke was like her .. from the neighborhood. Her talent was undeniable! When Brooke’s name would appear on the schedule for podium time Riley would sprint to get there on time to hear what she was going to say this time! The most beautiful thing about her was that she did not seem to have a jealous bone in her body! She encouraged everyone with her supportive words and kind attitude.
The time for the first DBP SoapBox contest came around. Everyone was gleeful at the thought of participating. Each contestant drew a subject and one week later they all came back together prepared to present their take on their assigned subject. When Riley drew “family” she breathed a sigh of relief. Talk about luck-of-the-draw she knew about family! Her speech was well executed and well thought out. Her classmates listened and seemed to be enjoying it.
She felt her heart leap with happiness when she saw 5 of her PS12 friends walk in to give a listen. They stayed and listened to all the presentations. When it was time for the vote the club leader gave them a vote sheet too. Riley could not believe that she won. What a crazy fluke that was. Well was it that her friends voted for her … maybe but those were only five votes she needed more than that to win first place at the SoapBox. Others had to vote too .. her classmates. The club leader and the classmates all seemed pleased.
BUT not everyone was happy. Gianna stormed into Principal Noiao’s office. She was furious. She was unaccustomed to NOT winning. “How dare they let that ignorant riffraff vote in the SoapBox!” she demanded. “I insist you remove her winning status immediately.” Principal Noiao looked directly at the fuming student and asked, “my dear what is the objective of public speaking? Is it not to be heard? How is it that we should only talk to each other and not to other willing ears? Did they not listen to all of the speeches? Were you denied the opportunity to also invite listeners? No? Well, my dear. I can find there is no wrongdoing so the win remains with Riley.”
Gianna’s face was red with anger,”If you will not take care of it I WILL! Send that little PLUM packing back to her illiterate friends” With that Gianna stormed out!
Soon Riley began to notice a chilling in the atmosphere. She would wave and speak but no one seemed to hear her. At first, she joked inwardly, “I must be invisible again today.” But the oppressiveness of her invisibility grew daily!
Now understand it was not the same outside of school. “Loved that message,” Zoe cheered.
Out there her classmates were friendly and positive! “Girl you nailed it.”
She walked out of the commotion filled locker room. The girls were laughing and babbling on and on about whatever popped into mind. But not Riley, her invisibility screamed loudly at her. “You are nothing! You have no value. Go back to the janitor’s closet where you BELONG!” She was so tired of it all. Why didn’t anyone ever ask her what happened? Agony and alienation sat on her chest like iron weights. She sank to the gym floor under the burning pressure. It made her angry to know that at any moment the tears would begin to tumble from her eyes.
Then something caught her eye. A sign taped to a nearby mirror. A student, obviously intending to inspire had, with a marker on ratty edged blue-lined paper, inscribed the words “Your value doesn’t decrease based upon someone’s inability to see your worth.” The truth of the words rang like a bell in her spirit. Why was she so worried about these people seeing her value? They were never going to see it and why did that matter so much? With that question, a dawning seemed to rise in her heart. “It doesn’t matter,” she spoke aloud. “It doesn’t matter at all!” She rose and dusted off her bottom. She knew what to do, she was going home! Not just for today but for good. Back to the people who cared for her and recognized her value.
Would anyone at DBP miss her? NO! She knew better than that! Riley doubted anyone would even realize she was gone. She nodded to herself because it did not matter. No one could take away your value UNLESS you gave it to them! Didn’t this mean that Gianna had won? Yeah, maybe, for now, it might appear that way but Riley figured she might not get “hers” this time but sooner or later she will. We all reap what we sow!
Riley’s smile shone anew as she set her face for home! She had indeed learned much from DBP!
(If you are being bullied GET HELP! Tell someone! There are people out there who care! I will listen if you have no one else.)
******************* Credits ****************************
Big TY to Ra3rei for her lovely school
Sakura Modular HS