Verbal bullying can be frightening, painful and traumatic – but when it turns physical, the harm can be devastating. Michaela M. was a target of bullies at her previous high school where she was shoved, cornered and threatened. Then one day in PE class, a student threw a basketball hard against her head, leaving her unconscious with whiplash and in the hospital. She lost all hearing in one ear, had occipital nerve damage with vision complications, and numbness on one side of her face and head. She has balance issues, constant and severe head pain and is still not able to drive.

“This school was my saving grace. I could work at my own pace, and around the complications of my disability and my medical appointments,” Michaela explained. “The staff supported and understood me. It was a relief to not have to worry about keeping up with other students or falling behind, because everyone here comes from all walks of life.”

She learned that perseverance is just as important as grades. Her teachers helped her take her disadvantages and turn them into strengths. She came to understand that just because she is different, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve respect, encouragement and a fair shot. “They taught me that trying something new, or difficult is more rewarding than not trying at all,” she said. “Support is out there and all you need to do is ask.”

Michaela graduated last year amid the pandemic and enrolled in community college. She made the Dean’s list her first semester, joined the Honors program and Alpha Iota sorority, and finished her freshman year of college with a 4.0, or a weighted GPA of 4.7. “I am proud of my accomplishments because it shows that despite my challenges with my disability and the difficulties of this last year, I am still capable of greatness, and can accomplish my goals. I learned that failure isn’t a bad thing. It shapes you for the future and for life.”

She plans to complete community college and transfer to Humboldt State University. Michaela hopes to become a book editor, start a family and become the best version of herself that she can be.

Written By:
Ann Abajian