In a time as turbulent as high school, most students can rely on their home life to provide some stability. This was not the case for University High student Ryan Giese.
Giese was raised by his aunt and uncle. The family didn’t have much family time, but it never bothered Giese, as it was all he ever knew. However, the summer before school began the family was unable to pay the bills. That is when Giese decided to make his first move.
“I ended up moving in with my other aunt, who I came to find out wasn’t a very big fan of me,” Giese said. “In fact, her boyfriend had to convince her to let me move in with them.”
That change of residence also meant a change in school.
A social kid in middle school, Giese says that part of the transition was far harder than the academic one. Even though he found a core group of friends in school, Giese’s home life provided him with challenges.
“I got pretty depressed while living there because I felt unwanted and that I was being treated unfairly,” Giese said. “It was very plain to see that my aunt favored her kid over me quite a bit.”
Coming downstairs one day with scissors in hand, Giese’s aunt walked over and clipped a chunk of his light brown hair – a look that his aunt particularly disliked.
“That was very upsetting for me,” Giese said.
After that incident, Giese moved again. This time it was to his former girlfriend’s house. That stay was short-lived, and Giese moved in with a friend from elementary school before the start of sophomore year — a year which Giese considers one of his hardest years.
“(My friend) and his family weren’t the most organized or productive people, and that really took a toll on me,” Giese said. “Though they treated me better than I had ever been treated, I still didn’t quite feel like I really belonged.”
This allowed Giese to fall into a routine: staying home from school to play video games, sleep, or occasionally play the guitar.
“Tenth grade was probably the least productive year of my entire life,” Giese said. “Eventually I got so unhappy there that I moved yet again, this time with a more recently met friend and his family.”
During that unproductive time, one thought never crossed Giese’s mind.
“The thought of ‘What am I going to do if I don’t graduate?’ never really registered in my mind,” Giese said. “I was kind of just floating through the days, not really caring about anything. The only thought I had was ‘I should probably change this.’ ”
After finding a stable home with his friend, Giese found a family that accepted him more than he had ever felt before. That positive environment translated into Giese focusing on school and catching up on credits, while painting as much of a social life as he wanted.
While the work content may not have been as challenging as one might expect, it was the amount of time put into the work that made it a bit of a challenge for Giese.
However, he was able to make up credits in one year and currently holds an A- grade average.
“I’m very proud of Ryan for not just deciding that he needed to get things turned around, but for actually taking the necessary steps to do it,” University High counselor Pat Shelley said. “So often students make plans then never follow through with them. He figured out what he needed to do to make a better life for himself and then did it.”
Following graduation, Giese would like to attend college, but that is up in the air. Giese would have to receive a substantial amount of financial aid. He does not know if that will happen. But if it does, he has a plan.
“If I can get the funds to go, I want to enroll in the photography course at Spokane Falls Community College,” Giese said. “I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures … I want to one day be a photographer for Thrasher magazine. I would get to travel around, skateboarding and taking pictures of people skateboarding. To me, no job could ever be better than that.”
If the opportunity does not present itself to allow for Giese to attend college, he knows that he will be OK, just as he has been throughout his life.
“I learned that I am capable of picking myself up after I fall down,” Giese said. “I don’t feel like all too much of a different person now than I was when I was struggling to be successful in school. I’m just in an environment now that allows me to focus on things more clearly.”
Kendra Andrews is a student at Gonzaga University.
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