Senior Spotlight: Cameron Gardner

I first came to The Potter’s House in preschool, but after that, I attended a lot of schools in different places. I went to a Christian school in Oklahoma for 2nd and 3rd grade, but my family started having some financial troubles, so we moved back to Michigan and lived briefly with my step-grandparents in Ludington before moving to Coopersville. I went to three different schools in two states during 4th grade alone. 

It was in Coopersville that I first started to experience mental abuse from my stepfather. I also saw him physically abuse my mother. Between 4th and 7th grade, the mental and physical abuse got worse. There were lots of holes punched in the walls during fights and things were thrown at my mother and brother. One morning before school, my stepfather blew up on my brother for how he was eating cereal. That escalated and my stepdad got picked up by the police. That’s where things started getting more difficult for me. Eventually, my stepfather got kicked out of the house. 

My mother had to pick up responsibilities from my stepfather which means my brother had to pick up my mom’s responsibilities. When my brother ended up going to jail, it was just me, my mother and my sister. My mother had to do more work keeping the house up and it became too hard for me to keep up with public school. There was also some bullying. I eventually left the school and started doing online school instead. I wasn’t able to find much motivation there with all of the other troubles that I was dealing with. I got through 8th grade but I failed freshman year in online school because I was helping my mother, my sister, and doing all of the other things like chores, cooking dinner for my family and stuff that I had to do. 

If I hadn’t returned to The Potter’s House in 9th grade, I am not sure if I would have passed freshman year. I probably would have ended up dropping out of high school at least by junior year if I even made it that far. I believe there’s a good chance I would have ended up going to jail, for any number of reasons. But because of being able to go to The Potter’s House, I was given support from teachers and friends. Being able to be out of the house in particular was also an important thing. 

The person at The Potter’s House who has made the biggest impact on me is my guidance counselor Mrs. Hill. She’s the mother of my best friend Daniel, and she supported me along the way the entire time. She helped me to focus on classes and made sure I was able to pass. She also pointed me towards several resources that could help with financial problems, stability at home, like being able to afford food. She has given me support and even a place to stay if necessary. All that helped me be able to recuperate, and just make it through. Through all the teachers and friends, The Potter’s House has given me a home when my family couldn’t give me that.

Mrs. Hill has also connected me to apprenticeships that will help me save for college. 

If I go to college, I would probably go for something that would work towards helping the environment, whether that be getting companies to have safer practices or just learning how to put solar panels down. 

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