An amazing piece from the mind of Kwan Z. Hopkins about his journey to get student government.
Sophomore year was already the hardest, most frustrating year of school I ever had to endure. Beginning the year a relative unknown to my stream and going through the year with strong acrimony for the unnecessary subject matter in every course had both been difficult enough. But imagine going through all that and then having to struggle to do something you’re actually passionate about. That creates an almost unimaginable anger. But I managed to put the animosity I felt for the courses and my ill will about not being a prominent figure in Iron Stream to the side because today was the day I’d meet with Mr. Gerwer… for the fourth time.
I had to begin to advance my agenda somehow. This was my moment to speak up and not let my idea go, nor let my anger go either. Letting go any frustration would be a complete disaster and had to be avoided at all costs. School was over and I walked out of class. Then, down the steps. Then, to stop on the second floor. Mr. Gerwer would always stand outside of Mr. Lehmann’s office to say goodbye to students. I struggled toward him. Something didn’t want me to say anything. But something more identifiable (seemingly my inner annoyance) needed me to talk to him.
“Hey, Mr. Gerwer,” I tried to say confidently.
“Hey, Kwan. What’s up?” he replied.
“I wanted to speak with you quickly about student government.”
The look on his face changed almost immediately. It went from one of genuine happiness from saying goodbye to his students, to one of clear annoyance.
“Actually, do you mind moving over here? I’ll be with you in a minute,” he deflected.
I agreed and moved more toward the window to the left of the main office. Gerwer seemingly wanted to continue his waving routine. Him deeming the future of democracy in our school less important than goodbyes struck a chord. As I waited, I thought and thought of what I was going to say. Finally, my thinking would come to a halt as fewer and fewer students began to walk by.
“Alright,” Gerwer sighed. “What’s up?”
“I wanted to ask you for another opportunity to speak about student government.”
“I actually think we’ve had plenty of opportunity to speak,” he replied.
“I’d have to disagree with you. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a thorough conversation.”
“Well, I do,” he said with a bit of laughter.
“All I’m asking is that you meet with my one more time. Let me share with you why this can work.”
“There’s no point,” he said, this time with more pronounced laughter. “You’ve had plenty of chances,” Gerwer continued.
“No I haven’t. I met with you once and I’ve met with the history department three times. Never have we had the opportunity to actually debate why this is necessary,” I asserted.
At this point, we both showed clear frustration.
“Look, it’s not gonna happen. We’ve talked about it. There’s no need to go any further.”
“I haven’t talked to anyone! Why can’t this work?”
“Staff doesn’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he huffed.
Everything came crashing down in my mind. I snapped; the one thing I didn’t want to do, nor did I think was going to happen.
“What members of staff? I’d be happy to speak to them too,” I retorted.
“That’s NOT happening.”
“Why not? Because it seems like you’re the only one who has a problem! I mean no disrespect but, it seems a bit selfish to me,” I said with my hands in the air.
There was no turning back now. I decided to call him out. I couldn’t determine whether or not I made a mistake and I didn’t care.
He laughed and said “Alright, I’m done.”
“You’re telling me to give up because of what YOU think. That’s selfish.” I suggested.
“Oh, I’m the selfish one?” he asked as he walked into the office.
I followed and screamed “You’re the selfish one. It’s selfish.”
A few more words were exchanged in clear view of the silent teachers in the room and I decided to storm off. Mr. Gerwer called me back and told me everything was uncalled for and that I crossed a line. He told me to go home.
Anger is interesting. It can come from just about anything or any emotion. Pain, heartbreak, passion-- all of these things can lead to anger under the right circumstances. But passion-- that’s what this speaks to most. To be passionate is to be committed. Commitment to a cause can get anyone to do just about anything. Passion caused my anger to just build and build until I lashed out on whatever was in the way of my goal. My goal was to get a student government at SLA. Mr. Gerwer was now in the way. I had gone into the conversation thinking that letting go all the frustration from the school year, from seating, and from my many efforts to get student government would cause me to lose everything. I ended up doing it anyway and hating myself for it. It was only when I realized that letting go brought forth the truth from me and the person in the way of my goal, that I began to heal and work harder than ever before.