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First Times

An Interview with Rachel Preston, First Year CLE Student

by Jessica Rothschild Student Services Coordinator, CLE Davie

Hi Rachel. Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got to CLE.

Rachel at CLE Fort LauderdaleI’m 18 years old. I love animals a lot. I want to be a Marine Biologist someday. I would like to open a sanctuary that protects sharks from people, boats and toxins in the environment. It’s mostly people I’m worried about. Thousands of sharks are killed every year for their fins or just for sport. I visited three CLE centers before I made the decision to come to Florida. I chose Davie because I have been coming to Florida my entire life and I love it here. My Papa (grandfather) lives here too and we are very close. I love how warm it is in Florida and I want to be near the ocean. It is an easy flight from Massachusetts, where I am from, too.

Tell me about your first week at CLE. What stands out?

When I first arrived here, I could not believe this was going to be my new home. It was a big shock when I realized I won’t even go home until Thanksgiving. I felt a little worried that I wouldn’t make it and I would fall apart before classes even started.

Do you still feel that way?

A little bit, but I feel better because I talk to staff and my new friends about it. I still talk to my old friends from home too. I realized I have a support network that is always there for me 24/7. There are a lot of really nice people here that can always help you out when you get overwhelmed.

Have you ever lived with a roommate before?

Unless you count being forced to share a hotel room with your little brother for a week, this is the first time I have ever had a roommate. I had been talking to my roommate a lot before I came, so I knew we would get along. We have had to sort little things out like dishes and cooking; like who will do what. We worked out a system that is working though. We had a roommate meeting and came up with an agreement so that we can both be good roommates and not upset the other person unintentionally.

Has it been an adjustment being away from your family?

It has been hard and easy. I like having freedom and not having to be told what to do and when all the time. I fit in here because everybody understands each other and their disabilities. People don’t judge me here. The hard part has been doing things for myself that I haven’t usually done. For example, I had to fill prescriptions on my own and that was confusing. It was really frustrating talking to the insurance company but my mentor helped me through it. I miss Friday movie night with my dad and my brother. It’s a tradition of ours. I am considering starting a movie club here at CLE.

How was your first day of school?

It was really good. My teacher is super nice and he has a passion for Geology, just like I have for Marine Biology. I could just tell by the way he talked about it. He said that rock formations evolve over time just like people; like how the Grand Canyon was created by glaciers. We don’t have homework yet because there was an error on the school website that told us to buy the wrong book. On the first day of class when the teacher told us to take out our books, he said we had all purchased an old book that they don’t use anymore. That was annoying for him and for us. We all groaned. My CLE Geology Tutor went to the bookstore with me to help me exchange the book, so now I’m all set. The class only meets once a week so we have a lot of writing and reading and online work that we have to do to be prepared for the next class. I think I can do it though, and my tutor is awesome.

This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.