Splashing into the cool, blue sea of my memories, I’m reminded of the struggles and victories I have been faced with for just over two Phoenix years. In no way shape or form am I finished with my journey, but I’m making my way there. My Phoenix path has helped me see my full potential. Whether it was finding my science eyes or taking my first stroke in the pool, there’s always something to learn from every experience.
The beginning of my Phoenix path was full of twists and turns for I was not yet a true Phoenix kid. It began at the mouth of the masher, a 250-foot long cave crawl of fear. As the line of anxious kids grew shorter and shorter, the weaker my knees became. It felt like I was slowly sinking in one hundred feet of water with no way up. In reality, all that awaited me was a dry passageway. What if I get stuck? What if the 200 ft of rock above my head comes crashing down? What if, what if, what if? Like many experiences at Phoenix I just had to suck it up and try my best. Ever so slowly I started the crawl, first on my hands and knees, then flat on my stomach. With every passing inch, I felt safer. After pulling myself through the clay-stained tunnel the tight space opened up to a large room, but the crawl wasn’t over yet. The hard part was still to come. Squeezing into the final few feet of the crawl, the space got tighter and tighter until it felt like I couldn’t go any farther. I kept going until I heard the excited shouts of my peers as they came to the end of our adventure. With a smile on my face and confidence in my heart, I knew I had made it! This was just the beginning of my Phoenix path to greatness.
Sitting at the Y pool, knees shaking with fear, I stared into my greatest challenge. Even though my whole life has been spent on the seashore, the never-ending water has always scared me. My biggest fear about coming to Phoenix was that I knew that swim lessons were in my future. As I stood there on the first day I wished I were back at school, safe and dry. My heart beat faster as name after name was called for the swim test. All I had to do was jump in and swim to the end of the pool, but to me, it seemed impossible. I stood up, shaking. Creeping to the edge, toes peeking over the side, I took a deep breath. Every part of me wished to turn and run. Taking one last look around, I closed my eyes, held my nose, and jumped into the waiting waters beneath me. Bubbles rocketed up around me as I floated motionlessly in the watery depths. With no breath left in my lungs, I returned to the surface smiling. I splashed my way to the other side of the pool, relishing in the cooling water. Fear flew out of me, leaving courage and pride in its place.
Like the endless ocean, a pure white, blank note card laid in front of me. I had chosen my tropical fish. All that was left was to draw it. Easy! Right? That’s what I thought. Betsye called out, reminding us to use our “science eyes.” Science eyes? What are those and where can I get a pair? I searched the room for a hint to what they might be, but everyone was just drawing as normal, no special glasses or anything. I sheepishly made my way towards Betsye, hoping she would provide me with the needed equipment. After much explanation, I finally understood that I had everything I needed.
All those days of practice in the pool perfecting my strokes led up to me with my wetsuit on and snorkel gear ready so I could brave the rough waters of Catalina Island. I charged into the water ready for anything. Icy water seeped into my wetsuit and sent chills throughout my body. I positioned my mask, kicked off the bottom and immersed myself fully within Catalina’s underwater life. My flashlight beam illuminated the bottom as I searched for creatures that call this place their home. Flash! A leopard shark darts by, sending shivers throughout my whole body. All around me, garibaldi battle for territory and brush up against me. Just think! At the start of my Phoenix journey, I would have done everything within my power to avoid stepping foot into the water. Now I never want to leave!
Math! Like getting water in my ears when I was younger, math brought me to tears. Temporary brain pain was the name of the game. Algebra was, and still is, like jumping in the deep end of the pool. I pushed on day after day. It sometimes made my stomach turn. Recently my attitude has vastly improved. I’ve actually found myself enjoying math from time to time. There is something magical about finding solutions to real life problems using just numbers, and letters. I know next year will be a challenge in math, but I’m up for diving into a sea of possibilities head first.
Just like I streamline off the wall of the Salem State pool, my fingers fly across keys as I write. Creative writing, scientific writing, persuasive writing… I’m learning them all! My head is always full of ideas for stories, poems, or essays. It all started with boring, complicated paragraphs. Ever so slowly I found within myself the creativity that I was lacking before. Now I can take my readers on journeys through unparalleled worlds using nothing but my words. Soon I hope to illustrate my stories. Someday I want to write lyrics too. There’s still so much to be learned, but I can feel myself getting closer and closer every day.
I was gifted with incredible role models growing up, so it seems only fair that I give others what I had. Here at Phoenix, I was given an opportunity to watch over my partners and teams like their own personal lifeguard, especially when working with the youngest students. I feel proud that I have been a part of each and every Phoenix kids’ journeys. I will remember the strategies I have developed as I swim into the next phase of my life–high school at The Academy at Penguin Hall. Though I may be leaving the school behind, I will pack all my memories and get ready to let the adventure unfold.
Written by Raya, Phoenix Graduate 2019