By Ashley Mott
Growing up in South Lorain, Ohio was never easy. The streets had pot holes bigger than a basketball meaning that driving in the winter was always better because they were filled in with snow, my school system was redone so many times that almost all of the schools I went to were demolished, and to top it all off — we had a bad rep. If Lorain had a rap sheet let me tell you it wouldn’t look great. That said it produced me; a hard working, book loving artist, who grew up loved by a community that fights every day to bring the name of Lorain back to good graces.
Now, I want to share with you my story, and I want you all to be open-minded because there are good parts and bad parts but in the end I wouldn’t change a damn thing, because this mixed girl has got a fire in her soul and it wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for my city.
First things first, let’s backtrack to the start of my educational journey. I grew up in the Gifted/Advanced program my entire life. It was something that I tested into during the first two weeks of my first grade year. I was six when my life started to go down the path that would lead me to where I am today.
Lorain has a reputation for having shitty school systems, but I don’t believe that for one second. If you have ever spent the day as a student — that actually cared and paid attention — within the four walls of a classroom in Lorain you would know that those teachers are the most supportive humans I have ever known.
They push you to your limits, but they are always there to break your fall if you don’t hit them right away. They break things down to a level where you can understand it, no matter what the topic is. During my 8th grade year I was approached to test into a college program because I was so ahead in my advanced classes by then. I tested and passed and started my journey to an associates degree during high school.
Now, that journey was not easy, but I had help along the way. You see, I took college english my junior year of high school, and let me tell you that college professor sucked. You know who didn’t suck? My french teacher. The woman who sat with me for hours after my class to break down the synthesis-analysis paper I was writing. I had no clue how to format, start or even finish it, but she helped me through every step of the way.
She proof-read it for me, checked that my arguments made sense and made sure that my grammar was perfect. It is because of her that I passed that class with a B+, and let me tell you that if I didn’t have her I probably would have failed it with a big ol’ F. If you know me at all, then you know that an F in a class is something that has never happened.
You know who else was amazing? My sixth grade math teacher. This was the man who fostered my love of reading and who challenged me to get the most “pop-points” in class, even when I was just a small fourth-grader taking his advanced reading SFA class. He made learning fun, and always held morning tutor classes for students who needed it. School started at 8am and he was there at 7am, explaining equations and problems to students as long as they asked for it.
Each year I had a teacher who helped me through my classes, and pushed me to do better. My first grade gifted teacher, who was also my second grade gifted teacher, taught my entire class about the love of mysteries. She taught us to read chapter books, without worrying about reading level, simply using books that we liked and thought would be interesting. The most memorable was the “Series of Unfortunate Events,” which was meant to intrigue us and get our minds engaged.
The stories of the horrible Count Olaf and the band of children looking to save themselves, after they lost their parents, captivated an entire class of 6 year olds. She read us stories with loop-holes and missing information, and challenged us to figure out the ending or “who did it.” She was great and I really hope that she is still changing the lives of six-year-olds somewhere out there.
My 8th grade science teacher was a wonderful lady who changed my view on science. Before her, I hated science, I never wanted to deal with it because I simply didn’t get it and wasn’t given a new way to learn. However, her teaching style intrigued us. I’ve never known a professor who taught us about the animal kingdom by bringing in her own animals. Her huskies were the cutest and most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever met, and while we were learning about the break down of different breeds of canines in the wild, we had two domesticated ones right in front of us.
She taught us about forces and movement with ping pong balls and air as well as using popcorn, sugar and flames to teach us about the power of heat and conduction. If it weren’t for her, I don’t think I would have skipped movies years later to take a college biology class in high school and miss out on parties to work to score almost perfect on a project that was almost 30 pages thick by the time I was done.
Now, these are only a few of many teachers who made a huge impact on me as a student and as a person. My educational process was a great one, not to say it didn’t have its difficulties too, but in my mind I survived because of the teachers I had.
To me, my time is school was only dampened by the drama and petty attitudes that occurred back then. We were all children who thought we knew what the world was like and had all the answers. I’ll tell you what, I honestly had no clue what I was doing back then, and I still don’t have all the answers now. However, that is the beauty of this journey we call life. We make mistakes and learn from them. We are not called to judge others for their mistakes, we are called to love them, help them learn and get back on a better path. Helping others is not done by being self-righteous or preaching from a soapbox, it’s about being there when you are needed most to love them, listen to them and give them a shoulder to lean on while they are trying to stand again.
We are not called to judge others for their mistakes, we are called to love them, help them learn and get back on a better path.
I have seen so many people who condemn others because of their past, because they remember someone from so many years ago. However, that is not who we are now and we have grown and changed from the meek children that we were before.
Living in the city of Lorain is kind of like high school. Everyone has this image of what the city is, and they judge it based off of the past and not where it is right now.
I bet you didn’t know that our school system offers the most in-house college classes available to students who can’t travel to the main campus, and has the most diverse career technical programs from auto-body and computer tech, to culinary arts and design. It also has teachers that care and are staying after school or coming in early to make the most of their time with their students.
Yet, because of how generations before us have influenced this one, we see the city in a bad light without any of those huge accomplishments showing through. We are “The International City”, we host a festival every year at Black River Landing celebrating that fact and how diverse we are. Let me tell you it is a blessing!
When I got to college there were so many people who had never seen someone who looked different from them, and to me that is sad. Growing up in a culture that was so vibrant and mixed meant that we were open to more changes, growth and acceptance than others and I am blessed for that mentality.
Lorain is a city where I feel safe. I grew up here, I know the problems that exist and I aim to change them and make it better. I think that so many people here look at the rap sheet we had in the past and want to flee, never thinking to stay and fight and progress our home into some place to stay.
Imagine all the things we could do if we simply stayed, worked hard and changed the world around us in our little city for the next generations to come. Imagine what a world of acceptance, honesty, forgiveness and the ability to agree to disagree would be like. Instead of arguing who is right and who is wrong, simply saying “I see your point, I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it.”
I see your point, I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it.
I ran away from Lorain once, but I quickly realized these other places and cities I was in were not my home. Lorain is home to me and I intend to make it better for everyone else who calls it home too.
Maybe you’ll call me a dreamer, someone who wishes for the impossible, or maybe you’ll say that I am unrealistic. However, I say this: I am someone who sets goals and aims to complete them. One day I will change the world and the stigma around my small, but fiercely loved town.
One day I will change the world and the stigma around my small, but fiercely loved town.
Photo Credit: Dad