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New School, New Life

A Personal Essay

by Asger O., CLE Denver

Asger - new schoolI missed another homework assignment. Now there are two days left to make up seven of them, runs through my head. My eyes glaze over as the panic felt after school yesterday culminates further. Already at the point of surrendering to failure in my classes, my thoughts turn to my parents and how they’ll react. Their responses were heard three months later, and nothing could prepare me for what they’d say.

I’m sitting and chatting idly in the living room with my parents, when I notice a prolonged moment of silence.

“We’ve decided you’re going to a new school,” Dad finally announces. “You’ll be boarding there within the next two weeks,” he finished.

The first thought to come to my mind is, he must be joking; there’s no way… right? This uncertainty is cleared when I see neither a hint of a twinkle in either eye nor the trace of a smile on his face. As reality sinks further into my conscious mind, I feel rage rise from its narrow depths. Foreseeing irremovable hurtful words if I would linger, I storm off to my room, shouting, “Don’t follow me; I need time alone!”

Alone in my room, I spent a few hours worrying, brooding about my friends; unconfident in my ability to keep them close with the distance in-between, even less confident I would make any new ones at the impending school. I expected a sleepless, anxiety-ridden night, but was very disappointed in myself to find I had slept a whole ten hours.

Having gathered the required materials listed for students a week later, my parents brought me to the school pre-session, for a tour of the campus. It certainly couldn’t have been a worse day to tour. It was foggy, rainy, and very gloomy, making the approach up the long, steep driveway feel like we were drawing near to Dr. Frankenstein’s castle. The director of admissions greeted us, a seemingly nice lady, with curly blonde hair down to her shoulders and a welcoming smile. When she brought us into the dorm, I noticed the long hallway of thickly painted white cinderblock. My previously silent mind started circulating, what have I done to warrant a stay at an asylum?!

Asger - new school, new lifeMy parents hoped for the best while I was expecting the worst; the two weeks were spent, and I found myself within those white cinderblock walls. Getting to class seemed easy to my classmates, but with every footstep trudged my aversion to my current location held me back. After the first day, I decided I would not attend classes, and instead stay in my own designated living space within the dorm. It was lonely in my room, the only faces I had contact with being those of the posters adorning the walls, and my own in the mirror. When hungry, I would travel to the dining hall to grab a bagel or whatever else could temporarily silence my growling stomach until the next outing from my self-inflicted solitary confinement. This went on for nearly a week before my attitude in life and perspective on it all changed.

It seemed like just another day of grabbing food and my daily anxiety medication, and it was still, dull and lonely. As I was sulking and pitying myself in my room just before noon, I heard a knock on the door. Thinking it was just another of the school’s faculty, I told the one responsible for the interruption to leave, and to reconsider putting my door in their shadow. To my surprise, the response belonged not to an adult, but to a boy around my age, who sounded like he cared genuinely for my state of being. I told myself not to believe this to be the case, but rather that a school employee tasked him with talking to me. I stated firmly that his presence before me was unwanted and requested he leave. He persisted, and much to my dismay, entered my room without my permission. We each sat on my bed, for a solid minute or two of silence before he could compose himself enough to speak.

“I may not know you,” he began, “but there is one thing I do know that could help you.”

At first I did not believe in his sincerity. I hadn’t had faith in anybody for many years. As he fumbled for words it became more and more clear to me just how much he felt what he said, and how much he truly wanted me to be better off.
“Look, I’m not all that good with words, but I want to let you know something about this school and those who attend it.”
I was all ears, ready to receive the truth.

He continued, “Nobody on this campus is against you. We all want to get to know you. It doesn’t matter who you were before you got here; show us who you want to be, and we will love you for who that is. All you have to do is walk out there and be yourself, and you will be accepted, but you’ll never know that joy until you do it.”

With that, he left my room, and left me to decide for myself what I would do. I sat there for about an hour, conflicted and contemplating. My adventurous side had finally won its first victory against the side of worry, as I soon found myself out and about. I was ready to show the world who I was. I was ready to show myself that I could.

Newsletter Articles – September 2015

walk daily for exercise

While many people see counselors for depression, studies suggest that you should also be seeing a personal trainer. In 2009, The Harvard Medical School launched a review of multiple studies on the effect of exercise in those with mild to severe depression and found a strong link between physical activity and the treatment of this mental health issue. Even if someone has never had depression, having a regular exercise routine can help prevent it from ever starting.


Sleep. Exercise. Eat well. Gratitude. Be yourself. Forgiveness. All components of a healthy and happy life.

Cooking with special needs

As we move into the fall semester, challenges present themselves with the ever-changing student and their abilities to navigate in the kitchen. Several current students, as well as those in the past, have expressed trepidation when faced with such tasks as cooking on the stovetop. These fears are realized by the impending thought of getting splashed with hot oil during a session of sautéing or pan-frying while attending cooking appointments.


Healthy lifestyle: being able to do what is right for myself, my body, and when I can get that done it leads to a healthy mind and healthy relationships.

Drink water for better health

For a young adult with learning challenges, maintaining health may not be at the forefront of daily decisions. Here are a few tips for a healthy outlook.

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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.