The school year has been a whirlwind for me in terms of the year in politics, academics, applying to college, maintaining a part-time job, participating in extracurricular activities and continuing to navigate who I am as a person in relation to the rest of the world.

As my time at Malden High School draws to a close, I have begun to assess my overall experience as a student here and how my education here has enhanced the last three years of my life in ways I could have never imagined as a freshman in high school.

When thinking about my experience at this school, I often view it through the wider scope of my experience as a Malden citizen. I grew up in Malden for a vast majority of my life. After living in Lynn for about five years, my entire family moved into a quiet, run-of-the-mill neighborhood on the outskirts of east Malden. I began kindergarten at a Malden Public School and stayed all the way up until fifth grade. 

That was a period in my life in which I essentially spent the most time in Malden. Despite the fact that I was living in Malden, I still spent a lot of time outside of the city whether it be to attend dance class in a neighboring city or to go on field trips with my after school program. I also attended church multiple times a week outside of Malden. Throw additional traveling into the mix, and overall, a large percentage of my early adolescent life was spent outside of Malden, even though I lived there.

A massive shift in the trajectory of my life occurred during the beginning of my sixth grade year and lasted up until my freshman year. Over the course of those four extremely formative years of my life, I attended a private school about a half an hour away from where I lived. I carpooled almost everyday, over an hour round trip to attend a school in a universe entirely different from my own, yet over the course of these for years the town in which this school was located began to feel more familiar than my own neighborhood did. Once again I found myself spending most of my time situated in a town that I didn’t even live in, and was forced to build my entire perception of the world based on the ideas and beliefs of people who I barely knew.

Although I had lived in and attended school in Malden for about five years, I still felt like an outsider in my own city. I had never truly known what Malden had to offer and how to enhance my quality of life while as a member of the Malden community.

Looking back, the general mindset and belief system of the town I went to private school in was drastically different from my own political, social, and economic worldview. Had I not transferred back into a Malden school system, I would have been surrounded by people who genuinely thought that my existence as a black, queer, trans person was an affront to their rights and beliefs.

It took me three years before I began to realize that Malden could make more space for me than the private school I was currently attending could. Although I had an academic experience I will never take for granted, I transferred back into the Malden Public School system after four years of trying out a different kind of schooling.

When I first re-joined the Malden Community as a sophomore, I tried to immerse myself in as many clubs and schoolwide activities that piqued my interest. In my first year at MHS, I was able to build community with people via our shared interests, even for a short amount of time.

My junior year also marked another significant shift in my life. This was the year in which I began navigating my gender, which I had no choice to do, but in a social setting. Considering my exploration began right at the beginning of the school year, I had only personally known of one other trans person in Malden High School prior to my junior year, and I knew there were going to be challenges to coming out as trans-nonbinary in such a binary gendered setting such as school. I was confronted with coming out to teachers, which at first was daunting, but I realized that this information only ever fell into the hands of the right people, who made the effort to make room for my identity in their classrooms. I also realized that if there were any situations in which I didn’t feel like I needed to come out, then I didn’t have to, and I could simply exist as a student attending MHS.

This is the point in which I began to explore the idea of silent activism and navigate its importance in my life. For many people in the LGBTQ community, simply existing is a form of activism in a world where your human rights are constantly debated and you are viewed as “other” simply due to gender expression or sexual orientation. As someone with a gender expression that often manifests itself in unorthodox ways, I often feel like simply walking down the hallway is a form of personal activism. My outfits, hairstyle, or accessories may get me lingering glances, but there is more power in the sense that I have the space to express myself how I want to without being met with adversity.

Over the course of the past year in particular, I have come to realize the reason why I appreciate MHS so much. I value MHS in a subtle sense that not very many people around me may also: it gives its students room to exist.

The very end of my junior year was when the reality of attending college occurred to me. For a long time, I was infatuated with attending college outside of the state. I was entirely opposed to having to attend college in Massachusetts and I wanted a drastic change in environment. For that reason, 80% percent of the schools I had applied to were outside of the state. I could in envision myself studying at a liberal arts school in Philadelphia or Chicago or New York City, the latter location being the most desirable to me, especially as an aspiring film major.

A large part of the reason why I wanted to go to school in New York was because of its cultural embrace of nonconformity and its strong tie to LGBTQ history. I knew college would be a highly formative period in my life and I wanted to surround myself with like-minded individuals throughout it. I feared that by attending school in state, I would be met with the same types of students that I encountered at the private school I attended four years prior.

It wasn’t until I visited the schools that I had gotten accepted to in New York that I realized that maybe Massachusetts was the better option for me all along.

When I think ahead to the fact that I will beginning my college career in less than five months, I naturally have a fear of not being accepted and a general fear of the unknown. Regardless, I know that I will find the community that I look for in a college setting.

I take pride, in every sense of the word, in the fact that I am going in The Arts despite knowing very few people around me who are doing the same. I believe that it is encompasses areas of study where values and belief system of the student comes first, and that can be shared with other in a powerful way. 

Although the school I will be attending in the fall is a small research university only about an hour away from me, and not an arts school in New York City, I still am hopeful for the experiences I will gain and I am eager to meet a wide variety of people. I am ready to have a legitimate platform to generate artwork and spend the next four years with other creative individuals who value artistry and individuality as much as I do.

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