I was just 14 years old when I had gotten accepted into Wake STEM Early College High School. Wake STEM is a high school that focused mainly on the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Wake STEM was also partnered with North Carolina State University, which was one of the colleges I wanted to go to growing up. Everything was great when I had heard that I had gotten into the school. I thought it would get me into the college that I had wanted to go to and I could start playing football (because I wasn’t going to the normal schools that were big on sports and had the teams already predetermined). During the summer before my freshman year of high school, my mom would take me to Athens Drive High School early in the morning for football practice. Athens Drive was the school that students at Wake STEM would have to go to if they chose to play sports because the school had no sports of their own. For football practice, I would have to be at Athens Drive and be dressed for practice by 7 a.m. The first day I got to Athens Drive for practice I was a bit late. As I arrived I saw the team stretching on the practice football field, as I started walking toward the locker room I felt a pit in my stomach and wanted to turn back around, but I kept walking.
As I stepped into the building I met the head coach in person. He looked at me and said You must be Shaun as he gave me a firm handshake. I told him that I was, and he walked me to the locker room and unlocked the door as he told me to put my cleats on and get dressed for practice. He showed me to my locker and put my name on a piece of duct tape and stuck it on the locker door. I had already been dressed for practice, so I put my cleats on and placed my shoes and my drawstring bag in the locker. The coach and I walked to a cart and got on and he started driving us to the field. As we got closer to the field he asked me what position I played and I said I had never played before but I was good at throwing the football and I wanted to try quarterback so he brought me over to where the quarterbacks were stretching. I got off the cart and started stretching with the other quarterbacks. There were five other quarterbacks; Farley, Otumus, David, Tre, and Will. After we were done stretching we all introduced ourselves and started doing drills.
The quarterback coach was Coach Stephens, he played quarterback at the University of Florida and at the University of North Carolina. At first Coach Stephens told me to just watch the drills so I knew what I was doing and after a couple cycles I jumped in and did pretty good for my first day ever. After individual position drills were done we all got together as a team and had a scrimmage(of course being the first day I was just watching). While watching the scrimmage I got confused on where we were supposed to stand after they flipped the direction the offense was going and I ended up on the wrong side. I felt so embarrassed at that moment and I sprinted to the place where I was supposed to be. After practice was finished outside we all walked back to the locker room to put on normal shoes. I hadn’t noticed it before(probably because I was nervous), the locker room smelled horrible with the scent of sweat and clothes that had not been cleaned in weeks. After putting on my sneakers we all met in the gym and the coach split us into lower and upperclassmen. The lowerclassmen went into the weight room while the upperclassman stayed in the gym for agility training. After about an hour or hour and a half, the upperclassmen and lower classman switched so that we were in the gym. After practice was over my mom picked me up and brought me back to her work. This cycle continued throughout the summer. As I kept going to practice I continued to get better and better and more situated and used to the practices.
Eventually, summer ended, classes at school started, and practices moved to the afternoon (after school).When classes started at Wake STEM, as soon as I walked in the building I felt as if I didn’t belong but I ignored what I was thinking and went on with my day. The first day was the only day where we had no work because in all the classes we were just getting to know everyone and find out what the classes were like. It was really easy to get to know everyone in the classes because there were less than 200 students in the entire school. After the first day of school, all the classwork hit us. At first, I was able to keep up with school, get all my work done, do good in school, and go to football practice and games. Throughout the year the workload became more and more. I tried to keep up with everything but Wake STEM did not care if you played sports and you don’t have enough time for all the work they gave you. Eventually, I started missing more and more work. Because I was missing so much work my grades started to drop exponentially. I started to freak out because in middle school I had never had problems with my grades and I was always an A and B student. With my grades dropping so fast I decided to quit football for the rest of the year so I could keep up with my work. After quitting football my grades did not improve much if any at all. Even without playing football the workload was too much for me to handle and I barely passed any of my classes. After my first year at the school, I told my mom I wanted to leave the school and that I couldn’t do that much work for 4-5 years(the 5th year was an option where you take all college classes).
My mom told me that the first year at Wake STEM was the hardest year there because they were trying to get some students to quit. I decided to give the school another chance and decided to stay. In deciding to stay at Wake STEM I had also decided to play football again. When summer had started again after my freshman year I returned to Athens Drive for football practices in the mornings. This summer was going much better than the previous one because I was situated with how the practices functioned and I was able to participate in practice activities that I was unable to do the previous summer. This summer there were only four quarterbacks to start the summer. Farley and Otumus had graduated so that left me, Tre, David, and the new freshman, Christmas. This summer started off great as I got better and better.
Practice was going so well for me that I had even started taking some reps with the varsity team during practice. Just when everything was going well in practice, a couple weeks before school and games would start, a new quarterback from California transferred to Athens Drive and destroyed what I had worked for. This new quarterback was probably the rudest person I had ever met and we almost got into a couple fights in practice. The new quarterback had taken my starting spot because he was faster and I was never able to earn my spot back. After that kid had just transferred there and was just given the starting spot I had lost faith in my ability to play football and practices became miserable to go to. Eventually, the summer ended and school started up again.The school was just the same sophomore year as it was my freshman year where I could keep up with my work and get good grades and out of nowhere the teachers would drop a bunch of work on us and I was unable to keep up with it and eventually started struggling again. Throughout the year my grades got worse and worse. When the first semester ended the principle had sent a letter to my parents stating that he recommends that I transfer out of the school by the end of the year because he doesn’t think that I belonged there.
When I heard about the letter it just proved my thoughts from freshman year, I did not belong at Wake STEM. I didn’t know what to do with myself. There comes a point in everyone’s life where they lose faith in someone or something. I had lost faith in myself. I wanted to leave Wake STEM and leave everything behind me and go back to a normal high school. The only reason I wouldn’t let myself quit was that I felt like if I transferred schools I would be a disappointment to my parents and I didn’t want that to happen so I stayed at the school for my junior year. Going to school and practice was a struggle for me every day. Going to that school and going to practice where my starting spot was just given away I became depressed and lost motivation for anything and I started gaining a lot of weight. By the end of my junior year, my GPA had dropped down to a 2.7 and I weighed 205 lbs. At that point, I had enough and didn’t care what my parents thought of me so I transferred schools and went to the school I was originally supposed to go to. At that point, I decided to quit football for my senior year and focus on school although I got a job at the country club down the road from the school.
At the new school, I did great in school, I got all my work done and my grades were way better than they ever would have been at Wake STEM. By the end of my senior year, I was able to bring my GPA from a 2.7 to a 3.0 in just one year while having a job. My senior year I was able to get out of my depression and feel good about myself again, I was able to lose weight(down to 175 lbs By the end of the summer) and get into Coastal Carolina University(becoming the first one in my family to be able to go to college) which never would have been possible if I never got out of Wake STEM and got out of my depression. Because I left of Wake STEM and did great in school, I regained faith in myself in all aspects of my life.
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