I could hear the soft murmurs of my mom in the kitchen, making breakfast for the family. My mom had enrolled me in Head Start, just a couple of blocks away from our apartment, and while I was so young, it still seems like only yesterday. This would be the beginning of a long series of “zone schools” that I would attend, all within walking distance of our place. It’s astonishing how vividly I can recall those days. I was always a bit dramatic, and growing up in a household awaiting Armageddon added urgency to my desire to live every day as though it was my last. Even as a child, passion coursed through my veins. I’d come home, beaming with pride, as I clutched my arts and crafts projects that I had diligently worked on in class. My youthful bravado even fueled my mission to kiss the hand of my crush while we shared a milk carton during recess. The memories of those times still make me chuckle. The Head Start building stood imposingly down the street from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Its exterior resembled a structure run by the Catholic Church, with its gothic architecture and tall spires casting shadows on the streets below. The imagery on the walls inside the building made it seem much more sinister than a children’s school. Dark, narrow staircases led to dimly lit classrooms, their walls adorned with grim faces of saints and other religious icons. The atmosphere in the building left me feeling uneasy, with questions swirling in my young mind about the origins of our neighborhood. I couldn’t help but overhear the hushed conversations of adults, discussing the possibility of our home being built on a Native American burial ground. They assumed we children were too naive to understand their words, but I caught every whisper. It was in this eerie place that I first heard the words “you are special.” As the awards and trophies started appearing on the faux mantel at home, my family began to deliberate on where I would go for kindergarten. The discussions seemed endless, with everyone having an opinion on the matter. But it was those first steps into the world of education, in that dark and daunting building, where my journey began.

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