You all know me as Ella, but over my Phoenix years, I could have been called determined, obstinate, persevering, committed, dedicated, stubborn, resolute, and any other word that means determined. My mind is always set on one thing, getting what I want no matter how much work it takes to get there. I’ve always been a determined person, which has a lot of pros, but it can also be quite annoying. It’s fantastic for getting the work I want to get done and not so great for the work I don’t. Let me explain.

As a small kindergartener reading was something I wanted to explore, a mysterious way to gather information through pages of words. Everyone around me was flipping through book after book and I wanted to be just like them. I picked up the hardest books I could find and snuck them into my backpack to take home at night, hoping Betsye wouldn’t notice the difference between them and phonics books. I tried so hard to read them, but no matter what I did everything looked like nonsense. I didn’t want to ask for help and neither did I want to sit next to a teacher or an older partner and embarrass myself.

When it was time for partner reading, I was stuck. I didn’t have a choice. I had to read out loud. I grabbed my book every day, obstinate to do anything and everything I could to avoid reading. After wandering for 10 minutes, checking my backpack 89 times, 34 water bubbler trips, and a good 15 minutes in the bathroom I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I had to read. When I read and found a word I didn’t know I would stop, quickly look around the room, and continue the page, after ignoring the word. It wasn’t the best strategy because, in the end, my older partners started catching on and then I was really stuck. It was a hard mountain to overcome for me and reading is still not my absolute favorite thing to do, but I’m not so obstinate about reading anymore.

Persevering wasn’t always a word that describes me, but that changed. Listening to older kids read their creative writing inspired me to write like them. WOW words slipped out of their mouths so effortlessly. Their stories painted movies in my mind, making me feel the emotions the story was releasing. I wanted to write like them, but I was convinced that I couldn’t do it, or at least not as good as those older kids. 

Attempt after attempt, I tried so hard. All I got was a flood of frustration. Everything I wrote seemed good until I read it out loud and listened to others’. Everyone else’s words seemed so much more complicated and their images seemed so much more real, but that did not stop me. I persevered. I tried so hard week after week. There it was, my name in the 100 Word Challenge showcase. Mine was one of the best pieces of writing in hundreds. I was so proud. I persevered and learned not to give up.

Venomous lionfish were ready to strike at any moment. I knew they were skulking below waiting for me to adjust my snorkel and dive in. Just as I was starting to worry an older kid told me if it spined me I was going to die. Stubborn me decided there was no way I was going to touch the water. I was scared and refused to go in. It seemed like a death wish. However, I didn’t have a choice. I dug my heels in the sand and wouldn’t move. My poor partner talked to me nonstop before escorting me to the water’s edge. I paddled above the water and didn’t even think about looking down, but again I had no choice. I didn’t understand the world below me that would soon become my passion. My mask entered the water. Warm waves swayed over my face. I immediately fell in love. My heart was happy and I was where I wanted to be. The lionfish still lurked below but now I wanted to see them. Being stubborn kept me from going into the water then, but know it keeps me in the water.

Honestly, I thought I had figured out that I was just one of those people with a closed mindset when it came to math. Wrong! Every time Betsye put a new math problem into my math journal I remained resolute. I wasn’t willing to let my mind open up and try it. I set myself up for failure. I was embarrassed to ask for help and I didn’t want to show that I didn’t know some things. Somehow Betsye and Barbara pulled me out of that mindset making me the math thinker I am today. They helped me through it by letting me figure out my own techniques and ways to show my thinking. Overtime problems started to make way more sense to me and new challenges excited me. I was ready to take on the next algebra book and then move on to more advanced math. Now I am resolute in exploring math and not avoiding it.

Starting out at Phoenix I was a perfectionist. I needed everything to look exactly right or else I would freak out. I was young so I was still learning how to draw. Frustration fueled me. I never understood how the 8th graders found it easy to draw something that looked so real and perfect. I would be so proud of my notecard and then take one look over at theirs and feel like mine was terrible. Overcoming this mountain was a tough one I worked so hard to be proud of the art I produced. I was determined to get better. I wanted to one day be someone else’s inspiration like they were to me. Nobody is perfect, especially me. 

Taking risks and making mistakes is a huge part of learning. In my time at Phoenix, I have made many mistakes. At my high school, The Academy at Penguin Hall, that might not change automatically, and I hope it doesn’t because every time I make a mistake I will be determined to make my work better the next time.


Committed, dedicated, determined.