Stories - The Chalkboard Project

Nicole

"In 3rd grade a girl told me that my teeth made it look like I had a rat face. In 5th grade, a high schooler called me a caveman because of my teeth and my hair. In 6th grade, in my advanced class, a girl repeatedly called me stupid. This was also the year I was “asked out” as a joke in front of 20 or so people. In 7th grade I had someone ask me why I don’t brush my teeth. Fat, lazy, loud, crazy, and ugly just too name a few more. However, I was the one to call myself worthless. Over and over and over again. By the age of 12 I had fallen into self harm habits and developed severe depression, something nobody should experience at that age, or any age. I had determined I was worthless. I didn’t deserve to be happy, or alive. Fast forward a few years and my family moved to Spring Lake and I began school here. My biggest bully there was myself. When I was happy, smiling and laughing, I would quickly realized I was showing my teeth or laughing too loud. I straightened my hair every day because I hated my curly hair. My sophomore year things took a change for the worse and I took more of my antidepressants than I was supposed to. In the ambulance on my way to the hospital, I realized things needed to change. Thanks to my amazing friends and family, things have changed. After 7 years of self harm, I am a year and a half clean. I smile confidently and laugh without a care in the world. My tooth disorder, my hair, my loud laugh all make me who I am, and I wouldn’t change any of it. This project has provided a safe place for people to share something that has hurt them and connect with people who share similar stories. I am forever thankful for being here and able to share my story to help others know that they aren’t alone in their struggles." -Nicole Rae

Gavin

"The Chalkboard Project was very hard for me to get involved in. To be honest I hated it at first. Not because of what it stood for but because of the way people were using it. And because I didn't want to make myself seem weak by using this outlet. That's not the way I am supposed to act. I'm not supposed to be relatable or approachable. I'm not supposed to have feelings. I'm supposed to be the big kid with no feelings. Who's intimidating and an asshole. That's not the perception I want of me of course but sometimes you can't choose what people say or think about you. My word had meaning. Nothing had ever hurt me the way being called a rapist had hurt me. I hated school and I hated life. Nothing was going my way and I didn't want to participate in the "stupid" chalkboard project because I saw the shit other people were putting on their boards that had no meaning. Acting like it was all a joke. I heard people making fun of others because of their word choice when it actually meant something to them. I heard people talking shit about others while standing in line to put my word on display for the entire school. And now the entire community. I took the project seriously and I broke down and cried in the hallway to my friends and Mrs. Gwinnup about what it meant to me. I never thought I'd hit that point. I thought I was tough. I didn't think I could ever be that weak. But I now realize that was one of the most courageous things I've ever done. My word comes from a bad time in my life. A lack of friends and a series of other hardships in my personal life drove me to a low point. I was convinced I could only push away the pain by making bad decisions. I didn't realize how self destructive my actions were until I was the only person fucked up after homecoming and nobody wanted to be be near me. I was an idiot and I was the biggest ass I've ever been that night. But I didn't rape anybody. Not even close, and to think a single word could destroy my entire reputation at Spring Lake wasn't even something on my mind. But that's what it did. That's what happened. I blew my chance with a girl I liked by acting like an idiot at a fucking high school party. And because of that I was accused of being a rapist. With a house full of people who could tell you that I was an ass that night and that I didn't do the things that were said about me. But that doesn't change the fact that those things were said. That doesn't change the way those words made me feel. That doesn't change that my friends I thought were closest to me betrayed me. And it doesn't change the way all the people at Spring Lake that don't know me now think of me. But this word is something I'll carry with me forever. The Chalkboard Project is something I'll carry with me forever." - Gavin Paul

Jose

"My father always joked with my siblings and I that we became too brown in the summertime. At least, I always had assumed he had been only joking. It was in high school when I realized he had always been serious. After spending a week in the sun at band camp before freshman year, I returned home to a very angry father. He was disappointed that I had allowed my skin to become so dark. He was embarrassed to be in public with me. He asked what people were going to think. He naturally has the darkest complexion in my family. He was so proud that his children had the same lightness as my mother. He thought it was ridiculous that we would willingly give up that privilege, and allow ourselves to become dark. It is not uncommon around the world for lighter skin to be the epitome of beauty. My father was born into a world that taught him that the color of one’s skin was also an indication of how easy life would be. It has taken me a long time to learn that my brownness is not a weakness, but a strength. It is a constant reminder of my heritage, my people, and the nation my parents left behind to give my siblings and I a better world. There is a freedom that comes from loving yourself in all capacities of the word. Every day when I wake up, I am reminded that the color of my skin is not a hindrance to my ability, but an integral part of the person I have been shaped into being. Rather than thinking I am the person I am in spite of my melanin, I am the person I am along with it. The kindness others have shown me has proven that nothing is based off of otherwise insignificant part of myself. With The Chalkboard Project, we all have learnt that we always overcome perceptions of what we are, and are able to show the world who we are. These signs have been to allow us to show our most private thoughts in the most public of ways. I am so much more than a shade. I am exactly what I have always been destined to be; happy." - Jose Ramos

Mike

"In my 29 years in education The Chalkboard Project is without question the most powerful event I have seen. The ability for students to show their vulnerability and then have the entire student body show support for them is incredible. I truly believe every Middle and High School should consider the event. It will change the lives of students and the culture of the building." - Principal Gilchrist

Alaina

"The reason why I chose the word skank to put on my chalkboard isn’t so much that I’ve been called that before; I’ve been every other name in the book: slut, hoe, whore, etc. Growing up I have always been really confident with who I was up until 9th grade. That’s when I got my first boyfriend. I felt so loved and wanted when I was around him. After a couple months of us being together I thought it was a good idea to have sex with him and so I did, but the worst part was that everyone in my school found out and started calling me names to my face and behind my back. It got so bad and I felt so poorly about myself that my mom had me switch schools. For a while it was good being at a new school and not too many people knew me. Then I felt myself following in the same paths of going to guys when I needed to feel wanted. I was once again known as the skank and I truly felt like that defined me and I should live up to that word. It wasn’t until recently that I started to feel beautiful again on my own. I started going to church and getting involved in it. In February, I went to Camp Harvest with my church and felt God move so heavily in my heart. I went to school the following week with a different attitude. I am now happy and place all my trust in Him. I know there are still people that know me as the “skank”, but that doesn’t matter to me anymore. All I truly care about is how the Lord thinks of me, and in His eyes I am truly forgiven. It’s such a perfect reminder that I live by everyday, and I got a tattoo that says “forgiven” on my arm so I can see it everyday. I may have been a different person a few years ago and I might have lived up to the name “skank”, but I know who I am now and who God thinks of me as, a beautiful daughter in Him. Words do hurt sometimes, but I am confident in the Lord and myself, so they don’t hurt as much because I am not on my life journey alone." - Alaina VanVelzen

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