I was born in Uganda where I lived for 13 years. My family and I moved to Los Angeles, California when I was barely thirteen. My father’s job didn’t allow him to settle in Los Angeles. He was always moving to different places for work. After a year of living in California, we decided I needed to be in a school where I could be settled for the remainder of my high school years. We searched for schools in California but there were none that were suitable.
One day my dad told my brother and I that he had found a school in Oklahoma and it would be the best place for us. I had never even heard of Oklahoma before then so I did some research to see what Oklahoma was like. I really liked California, I did not want to leave, but my dad insisted that I needed to check it out. I remember asking my dad what the name of the school was so I could research it online and he wouldn’t tell me anything other than I would see when we got there. As you can imagine, I didn’t like that answer.
Finally, the day arrived for us to fly to Oklahoma and check out this place. When I arrived at Cookson Hills, I didn’t like it at all! It was in the middle of nowhere and certainly not what I expected. My dad and I did the enrollment at the front office and headed to the house my brother and I were assigned to. We got all our personal belongings settled and my dad left for Los Angeles. I did not want to be here. I didn’t know anyone, let alone my surroundings. My house family tried to make me feel at home by telling me what life at Cookson Hills looked like, how many kids the school had, the expectations and rules in the house and on campus. Hearing all this I thought to myself, what is this place? What had I been signed up for? I felt like I was not meant to be here! Many of the other kids had behavior issues… that wasn’t me! Even when I begged my dad to take me home, he would tell me that things would be okay. These people are patient and they would help me.
Fast forward three years and Cookson Hills has been more like a home rather than just a school to me. Now I’m about to graduate. It is an important part of my story because it has helped me become the strong determined person I am. It has taught me what family looks like. Of course, it has given me time to settle in one place and concentrate on my schooling but it is so much more than that. In Los Angeles I was always busy. Being here at Cookson Hills has helped me have more concentration. Counseling has helped me make future plans. The country life that I didn’t like in the beginning has allowed me to focus on becoming the best person possible without distractions.
Over the past three years at Cookson Hills, the teachers have really had patience with me. This has helped me in school as well as taught me how to be patient with others and understand my fellow peers. Playing on the basketball team has helped me learn how to be part of a team and has improved my basketball skills. It has also taught me how to be a leader and given me skills in communication with my fellow team members. This year I am the president of my senior class. I’ve learned how to be more open to other people’s ideas and also improved my public speaking skills.
My houseparents have always treated me like their own kid. They have given me consequences whenever I did something wrong, understood me whenever I had something to say, taken me and my brother out for visits when we did not get visits, been there for us, and treated us how a family should be treated. They have always done the best for us. This has helped me stay strong while at Cookson Hills. I have since moved to a different house but my new houseparents are just as amazing. They make sure that every kid in the house is a part of the whole family. We have met grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles and they all accept us as part of their family.
After I graduate I am planning on moving back to California and doing my college studies at Santa Monica Community College. I will be working on getting my Pharmacy Technician license so that I can work while going to college. I am hoping to major in Pharmaceutical Studies and to one day become a Pharmacists.