Kelly's Choice

When my daughter day dreamed about what it would be like in high school, she never imagined being the target of someone's vicious anger, or that the ripples of hatred would be spread by one senior girl to her large circle of friends.

All the joy and the anticipation of entering high school had been torn apart on a summer night in August when Kelly had let another girl's boyfriend steal a kiss from her. She felt terrible about that, and wished she could apologize to Chantelle, the girlfriend. . I told her that it would all blow over in time, but I was wrong. The glaring stares and snide whispers from the girl and her friends continued through fall's brilliant color, the arrival of winter's snow, and now into the springtime. Sometimes anger is nurtured into an obsession. Like an addict, it seemed Chantelle was plunging a needle of hatred into her veins each morning.

Finally one spring day in the cafeteria came the confrontation Kelly had dreaded, when the anger boiled over and Chantelle was suddenly in Kelly's face yelling, "I'm going to beat you up today! You better be ready!" In a flash she was gone again, leaving Kelly to walk through the hallways in a daze of anxiety, to sit through classes hearing only the fear throbbing inside of her. She didn't want to report it to the principal's office; she didn't want to be labeled a coward and a tattletale. She didn't know what to do except to face this alone.

Suddenly, near the end of the school day, when Kelly was walking down the hallway, there was her nemesis in the open courtyard inside the school. "I'm going to beat you up for what you did!" Chantelle screamed at her. A crowd quickly started gathering around, and soon there were a couple hundred students encircling them - so many that even teachers couldn't make it through the throng.

Kelly put her hands out. "Chantelle, I'm sorry. This is stupid - we can talk this out." Kelly pleaded and tried to reason with the bigger girl, but her words bounced off an immovable object. Chantelle suddenly lunged and viciously pulled Kelly's hair, began beating her with open hands, grabbed and ripped her shirt halfway off. Kelly was stunned and shaken, and all she could think of was to stop her attacker. In a split second she did what her father had taught her to do if she ever had to defend herself. She closed her fist, pulled her elbow back and then sent a straight shot to Chantelle's nose and watched as the senior girl crumpled to the ground and blood splashed around her.

It was over. And yet it was far from over. Kelly and Chantelle were both immediately suspended from school for five days, according to their high school's policy of zero tolerance for violence. After a plea from me that my daughter was just defending herself, the superintendent did reduce Kelly's suspension. However, it was small consolation to Kelly, and the fact that from then on Chantelle and her friends avoided her like the plague didn't really help her feel that much better either.

She was only a freshman and she was already labeled a troublemaker by the administrators in her school. From now on, they would be watching her every move and her reputation seemed to follow her everywhere. It was disheartening and depressing to think that everyone knew who she was because of the trouble she'd be in. I knew how badly my daughter felt about being suspended for fighting, for missing her volleyball games during that time, for feeling that she'd let her team down, herself down.

"Kelly, honey, when you graduate with honors, I'm going to frame that suspension form and hang it on the wall," I said while hugging her tightly.

And after that, it became Kelly's goal not to let one negative situation brand and define who she was. She became determined to succeed, and to wipe out her label as a troublemaker. And succeed she did. Today, if you were to visit our home, you would see a suspension form matted and framed and hung on the living room wall. It hangs next to Kelly's Most Valuable Player awards, her Team Captain honors, her Best Athlete and Best Scholar-Athlete plaques, her Good Citizenship and High Honors certificates and a photograph of Kelly as Homecoming Queen.

Kelly's spirit and accomplishments have all but erased the stereotype that began her high school years. The turmoil and negative reputation that once followed her through the school hallways is all but forgotten now, and all that remains of that darker time is a small piece of paper hanging on a wall.

Anne Goodrich

Anne Goodrich is a web designer and creator of the web site. (2theheart's sister site!) In May her daughter Kelly will graduate with honors from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. After student teaching she'll begin her career as an elementary teacher and a coach. (And no. . . She's not going to coach a boxing team!) "Kelly's Choice" will be published in an upcoming "Chocolate for a Teen's Soul" book, to be released in 2002.

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