The Challenge of High School
Life introduced a new learning curve and unforeseen challenges when
Rakhsha transitioned to Shaker Heights High School. For example, she
and her parents had no idea what a guidance counselor was. There were
so many after-school activities to choose from, but since Rakhsha’s father
worked long hours to support the family and because her mother didn’t
drive, she had limited transportation options. She was so adamant about
attending class that when colleges would visit the High School to recruit
students, she refused to miss school. And then shortly after she got her
driver’s license, she was in a serious car accident. The cumulative effect of
all of this was that Rakhsha grew increasingly despondent.
Her teachers noticed.
“She was divided between two worlds,” says her school counselor
Catherine Szendrey. “I think it was hard for her to be the older sister, trying
to be the responsible one who had to figure it all out.” Szendrey remembers
many days when Rakhsha would come into her office just looking for
someone to talk to. She needed a support system.
Her junior year, she found it. She decided to pursue the International
Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, which opened the door to the
social-emotional and academic culture she craved. “All the people in the
IB Programme were so supportive and so genuine,” she says. “It was a real
turning point for me.”
Rakhsha’s Government teacher, Halle Bauer, recalls a particularly
moving experience during her Model Congress segment, when students
spend a week learning what it’s like to move a bill through Congress.
Rakhsha wrote a bill about shortening wait times for visa applications as a
reform to naturalization laws.
“She stood up in front of the whole class and shared her family’s story.
She talked about how immigrants just want to be productive citizens and how
they want to be a part of society,” Bauer says. “When she was done, she got
a standing ovation and her bill passed unanimously.”
“At that moment, I felt like everyone was there for me,” Rakhsha says. “I
grew more than I ever could have imagined because of the opportunities at
school and my teachers.”
oday she has
that comes with
than her 20
60 SPRING 2020 | WWW.SHAKER.LIFE