by Caitlin Griffin

Many students learn to become independent, self-sufficient, and strong-willed after high school, but others must develop the skills needed to support themselves much earlier. Senior Nichole Espinoza discovered the value of independence during her early years of high school.
    “I was dealing with family problems, abusive relationships and other issues,” said Espinoza. “During sophomore year, I moved out to get away from all that.”
    Espinoza quickly learned that to live away from her family, she would need to be able to support herself.
    “I have a job at Beyond the Glory restaurant, and at one point, I was working six days a week in order to earn enough money to support myself,” said Espinoza. “I worked from four p.m. to ten p.m. on the weekdays, and even later on the weekends.”
    Not only did Espinoza have to deal with a busy work schedule, the relationship with her family was also strained.
    “I came to the point where I wasn’t even talking to my family, but our relationship has gotten better since then,” said Espinoza.
    When Espinoza entered her junior year, she learned a valuable lesson from her Rebels, Resistance and Revolution history teacher Todd Siders.
    “One day, he gave our class a talk about how graduating is the one thing you have control over as a teenager,” said Espinoza. “Rebels helped opened that door to graduation.”
Due to the immense stress that some students feel during high school, especially during junior and senior year, Siders feels that it is important to talk to his students about how to handle it.
“A diploma is the one thing that people can’t take away from you,” said Siders. “View school work as an escape, as a way to hide from the stress of life because it’s the one thing you can take with you.”
    Espinoza also learned many other valuable skills from her Rebels teacher that helped her find the inspiration to pursue graduation.
    “Rebels taught me honesty and helped me to be able to make rational choices and look at situations differently, while also doing what is good for me,” said Espinoza.
    All aspects of Espinoza’s life were affected by her family issues, but she found encouragement in her friends as well as her teachers.
    “My friend Raquel really supported me a lot,” said Espinoza, referring to senior Raquel Durr. “And I now live with a family friend.”
    Espinoza is set to graduate this year and plans to major in music in college.
    “I’m going to Santa Rosa Junior College for two years, and then I want to transfer to a music school in Boston.”
    Although Espinoza was able to learn from her teachers, and found support with her friends, her sense of independence allowed her to find success in high school.
    “I was thinking that I didn’t have control over anything else,” said Espinoza. “Graduation would allow me to at least have control over one thing.”