So where should I start? My name is Justin Yankwitt and I am 17. I was born August 9, 1997. I was born to a carpenter father and a photographer mother. Ever since I was young, 4 years old I wanted to be a filmmaker changing the world with my craft, my storytelling. Through this plan of being a filmmaker it is my dream of dying while smiling. As dying while smiling is the sense of having a successful life, at least to me.
Life hasn't always been easy for me. When I was eight years old my parents had a destructive divorce where my mother and father had a battle to the “death” (metaphor) in the courts and during this time I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder – NOS (a form of Autism) and severe anxiety disorder. After the diagnosis my childhood house was foreclosed and I was ripped from a place that was my sanctuary.
Though angry and scared I was very optimistic! My mother always reassured my brother and me that our home was wherever she was. She helped us to be strong and to feel safe. Off we went, we had to move. At the time I felt a new start in a new school making new friends will be great. I'll be a completely new person! The school was a backward thinking school. They were not well equipped to deal with my form of mental illness and through this they became frustrated and discriminated against me.
My disability affects me in social situations, with friends I was the weird kid. Always barging in on the conversations, always talking when I'm not supposed to talk just being socially unacceptable.
I was always scared! I never exited my house and I spent hours on the television, I felt I was alone in the world. During this time my mother taught me how to advocate for myself. How to explain to others, yes even teachers and professionals who I was and how they could help me. This school did NOT listen. They said they understood, but they didn’t. My mom helped me to understand how to help myself.
After a private incident that I won't delve into, I was put on
Medication. It was working, but the school I was in didn’t have patience. I remember once I had fallen asleep at my desk as a result of being on new medicine. The teacher woke me up by rolling up a magazine and slamming it on the desk next to my head. Needless to say, I woke up startled. I was totally bewildered by the incident. Then the teacher had the nurse bring up a wheel chair for me to be removed from the class in. When I refused, because I was MORTIFIED they gave me detention for being insubordinate. Eventually, I had to see that it just didn't work with these people. They could not understand my plight so I moved to an alternative school. The teachers there understood but the place was not for me either. It was either for the severely mentally handicapped or people who had been in jail (great combination, huh?) I always did well in school. These kids were making up classes they failed. I was taking classes for the next grade because class selection was small. There were no more classes they could offer me.
I told the CSE committee that I was ready to come back to the regular High School. The only people that knew me there was the School Social Worker and my mother. They voted without my input and without listening to my mother that I could NOT come back to school. They told my mother that she could appeal! I LOST IT!! Here I was, trapped.
I heard of this camp called Omega Teen Camp in Holmes, New York and it is a place that only contributed to the positive that was now going on in my life. There I met different types of people, kind generous people that I never would've even heard of where I live. Diversity was up the Wazoo. It changed me, it was a place where I learned to change my mindset. It was a place where I learned that the people in the school prior to Commack, and the situations I had experienced with the divorce was a part of life. Life is not perfect and as my mother always tries to remind me is that sometimes ya just gotta’ say “that’s life” and move on, she says it makes a person stronger. Rather than dwelling on an issue. I have since made some of the closest friends I have in my life at Commack High School. We are all working together to make a full-length feature film. Finally I feel like my dreams will and can come true.
It really has been a long road. However, without this long journey that I know ultimately I was supposed to take I would not be the person I am today.
You should be very proud of yourself. I have 2 sons like you ages 11 and 10. I am going to show them your essay and maybe they will be inspired.