Reflecting on high school trauma and using it to help redirect those close to me

Joseph Ferrer, Arts & Entertainment Editor

This upcoming graduation season is a particularly eventful one for my family and me. While I’m gearing up to finish my education and enter the workforce and my younger brother is preparing to enter into his college life, my youngest brother is getting ready to enter high school. Given that my family has now gone through the opportunity of selecting and searching for high schools multiple times seeing and helping my youngest brother go through the process has made me ruminate on an experience that feels so long ago. Going into it, I was told that high school was going to be some of the best years of my life but in truth, they were anything but. For a while, I didn’t know if it was my fault for that or if it was ungrateful of me to not be appreciative of those years. I was able to attend a private school and access a good education that many families could, unfortunately, only dream of being able to send their children to help them establish the groundwork for a successful future. However, where others were able to make long-lasting friendships and memories from high school, I walked away from it with barely any friends, no groups or clubs that I would miss being a part of, and felt glad that it was finally over. It wasn’t until years later that I had matured enough to recognize the underlying factors that led to my less-than-desirable experience.  


Growing up in a Hispanic family in the Bronx, I was used to going to school with people that looked not only like me but from a wide array of walks of life. That changed with high school and I suddenly found myself in an all-boys environment where few people looked like or could relate to me. This resulted in me being excluded and looked down upon in specific groups of people which was so foreign to me that I hadn’t even internalized it until years after graduating high school. But for the longest time, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to express my distaste and negative experiences in high school because not everyone had the opportunity to go to a well-established school. My brother who initially went to the same high school went through even worse treatment than I did as the existing prejudices actively got in the way of him being able to play high school basketball. It wasn’t until after he made the effort all on his own to transfer to a different school that it wasn’t just me being ungrateful and that there was something systemically wrong with the environment that we were put in that made us not fit in.  


Over the past few years, I’ve grown to accept that the high school environment was not a good fit for me. This fact has only grown stronger over time through both me becoming friends with people that I would have gotten to know much sooner had I gone to other schools alongside others being surprised that I had gone to the school that I did due to me not reflecting the type of character that most students from the school walk out of. The acknowledgment that I wasn’t the issue when it came to my subpar experience has been validating. But it’s also led me and my family to have a much different perspective now that my youngest brother is preparing for high school. Where I was initially admonished for my outlook, the negative experiences of my brother and I have helped my youngest brother find a high school that he feels at home with. While I wasn’t proud of the experiences that I had, and often wish that I had taken a different path, I find a unique solace in the fact that my past is able to help ensure that my brother doesn’t go through the same things that I did.