Student Works through Adversity in Journey of Self Discovery
Editor’s note: This article is part of an occasional series designed to highlight student voices and experiences from throughout the district.
“I wish students were more respectful,” says Milo B., an eighth grader at Beaver Lake Middle School.
After being asked to name one of the biggest challenges he’s had to face as a student, that was his first response.
“I've been bullied for being transgender, queer and because of my mental health,” says Milo.
The eighth grader says he is on a journey of self-discovery and experiences anxiety.
“I used to have anxiety that was so bad that I would throw up before entering the building,” says Milo, who has had it since about the age of 5.
And while he's always had anxiety, Milo says that he and his support system have found ways to reduce it.
“The district, in terms of my mental health... has been so great about it,” he says. Milo says he’s grateful to be a part of a district that welcomes all races, cultures, disabilities and sexual orientations.
For him, it’s important that people feel welcomed in society. “People need to know that they are loved... Knowing that they’re loved makes them feel like they have a purpose,” which he says has enough impact to keep people going in the midst of challenges.
One person who has made a difference in Milo’s life is counselor Rashmika Abajian.
“She’s been my counselor for three whole years and has been so helpful and so supportive. She is the first person I go to when I need to get something off my chest.”
Abajian, who has worked at Beaver Lake for five years, says that middle school is not easy.
“It’s filled with big educational and life transitions – both socially and biologically. It’s also a major developmental period where students are trying to figure out more of what makes up their identity,” says Abajian.
As a counselor, her job is to support students throughout that journey, including moments when they may experience bullying.
“A student who has been bullied can be significantly impacted emotionally, physically and socially... When a student shares with me that they’ve experienced something that is unkind behavior, we go over all options that they have (depending on the severity – coaching on skills to navigate conflict, mediations, or writing an official incident report that admin responds to immediately) and find a way to deal with the situation.”
One thing that Milo says he has learned about his anxiety is that it can be triggered when peers are goofing off in class, even if it isn’t directed toward him.
When this happens, he most often turns to the counseling center for relief, where Abajian helps by letting him spend time there to complete assignments, or decompress.
Milo says that understanding students’ struggles and being flexible can help them overcome obstacles.
Abajian says flexibility is also an important part of meeting students where they're at.
“We can’t expect everyone to be in the same place. Why do teachers differentiate content for students? Because we know our students, understand their needs and address those needs. You can’t always force a square peg into a round hole,” she says.
Soon, Milo will be a student at Gibson Ek High School, where he will follow his dreams of studying and practicing content creation. It will be difficult leaving Abajian behind, he says.
“It’s going to be hard... but she’s helped me get to where I am,” Milo says, and shares that he’s interested in returning to Beaver Lake Middle School as a volunteer to support other students.
“I don’t know how to thank her enough – she’s great at what she does. I love her to death,” says Milo.
The admiration is mutual. Abajian says that one thing she appreciates about the eighth grader is that despite having to navigate some of the hardships he’s experiencing, he’s still able to find passion and motivation to advocate for others who may also need support.
“He’s awesome!” she says.
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