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City High student shares perspectives on defining self, diversity, peer pressure

Shardae Jefferson discusses diversity in her school, how people choose to define themselves and her admiration for a friend who wants to become a positive role model.
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This article was written by Shardae Jefferson, a 16-year-old student at City High and LINC volunteer for the I Believe I Become movement. 


What defines you? Who are you? Where do you want to be five years from now? How will you get there? As we look around there are several things that define who we are as a person. However, the ways we combine those things truly differentiates our being. So often we rely on others' opinions to form our own thoughts and likings and that doesn't paint a clear image of us. We are not defined by our peers. We are all individuals that prefer vanilla over chocolate or music versus poetry. How we define ourselves is solely and exclusively based on our own train of thoughts and no one else's. Who we are and what we do creates a persona for ourselves and no one should be able to decide that for us.

My school life is vastly different than my home life. City [High School] is mainly composed of Caucasians while my neighborhood is more diverse, and cheerleading at Ottawa Hills adds even more diversity to my life. Somehow I always feel trapped between two worlds of black and white, and defining me as a person can be a tricky task. In some respects, Grand Rapids lacks and, simultaneously, has a lot of diversity. The culture at City, even though there aren't a lot of minorities, is very diverse and we as a school take pride in acknowledging different backgrounds. There is an inherent cultural gap and at times I feel as though I'm a lot different person than I would be, say, if I were at Ottawa Hills, because the environment is obviously different. My enjoyment comes from being around different people, with different ethnicities and different backgrounds because you can really learn a lot from people who have a story to share. If we only surround ourselves with people who are similar to us or share a similar background what will we ever learn?

When asked "How you define yourself?” Deshia, a City High School junior, says she doesn't really know how to define herself. Her friends essentially shape who she is because they all have a common interest as well as influence on her life. However, she wouldn't let her friends land her into a detrimental situation. A lot of teenagers allow their friends to have a negative influence on them. Dunn says that she has a strong moral compass and that’s something that will never change; she would never let friends come between her core beliefs.

Contrary to Dunn's strong morals, many teenagers deal with and give into peer pressure on a daily basis. A friend of mine had a party and invited a lot of teenagers so there was alcohol, drugs and so on at the party. It seems that a lot of high school students feel obliged to take part in this activity because others are, or they think it is "cool." In this generation “cool” is so played out, and too many people do things just because of their group of friends. While at this party I simply sat there with Dunn and drank Mountain Dew, only to soon leave and go home because that sort of activity isn't in my nature. I have an immense amount of respect for Dunn because she's so strong in the sense of not changing who she is and what she believes in no matter the situation. 

In five years, Dunn will be 21 and wants to be a role model that has as a positive impact on young people and help guide them through life. When thinking about role models in her life, she thinks of her basketball coaches. She says they give her the drive to propel forward and to never give up so that she can be the best person she can be in this life. People like her basketball coaches inspire her to want to have a lasting impact on youth of the future. She plans to get there by having an internship as a school counselor so that she can further help younger children as they go through this thing called life. So whether you're intrigued by biology or by architecture, by painting or by reading, what truly defines you is your own personal interests and passions. There is always time to define and redefine and redefine yourself again, the most important matter is that you are choosing what is of most value and influence to you in that moment.

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