Talkin’ About My Education: My High Fiver Project and Our Chai Five Project

By M. Alexander

I want to take this time to talk about my education.  I graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Calabasas High School in 2006 and went to my first choice university.  At NYU, I designed my own major, “Global Ethics and Conflict Studies,” achieving honors and graduating after 3 years at the age of 20.  I spent one of those semesters studying aboard The Scholar Ship, a 100-day cruise holding undergraduate and post-graduate students from 35 countries. I studied “global culture” in China, Thailand, India, The Seychelles, South Africa, Cape Verde, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, and The Netherlands.  I spent another semester studying European Politics on a villa in Italy.  The day I graduated, I presented a thesis and an oral presentation to three faculty members about my major, using ten texts from antiquity and ten modern books to highlight what I had studied.

Sound like a great education?  Here is the part I’m not telling you.  I didn’t like high school.  I felt friendless and alone, escaping through poker and marijuana.  When I got into college, I spent my weekdays smoking bongloads, turning my living room into an opium den, turning my common area into a four-square court, turning my bedroom into a pharmacy, and turning classes into an endless succession of Sparknotes and manipulation.  I got kicked off of The Scholar Ship, got caught by drug dogs on two separate occasions during my semester in Italy, and became a heroin addict as soon as I returned.  I studied how to study, but I did not learn.  I did not integrate into any community— other than dope dealers, thieves, and cheats.  I got sent to my first treatment center the day after I graduated.

What we have with the Chai Five project is an opportunity to give somebody a real education.  Julian knows what he wants to study.  Graphic Design is his passion. And recovery is his purpose.  He has the opportunity to defy society’s conception that college is a time to party, to experiment, and to become an atheistic, apathetic “intellectual.” Julian can show all of us at Beit T’Shuvah that we can go to college and maintain sobriety.  He can get the opportunity that he dreamt of before he got sober and has worked toward every day since.  We only need 600 more dollars to fund his education.  With only 600 dollars we can help Julian rise above the mistakes I made.  We can grant him the opportunity for an education he deserves.

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