My name is Danielle Muro, I am 17 years old, an inner-city high school junior, and a student journalist for the Rivard Report.
My assignment is twofold: I will give readers a glimpse of what life is like for a student with big ambitions and limited resources through the lens of a young woman with deadbeat parents. I will relate to you the perspective of a teen who spends hours every day riding public buses to and from school and work at Casa Rio on the River Walk.
I am going somewhere in life, but getting there poses challenges that people my age who come from intact families with ample resources can hardly imagine.
The other part of my assignment includes learning how to drive a car and earning my driver’s license. This has been made possible by the Rivard Report, which has paid for me to attend the Texas Driving School on the city’s Southside, and has given me the opportunity to write about my experience. Without parents or a responsible adult willing to teach me these skills and give me access to a dependable vehicle, young people in my circumstances find it difficult to obtain a driver’s license and a vehicle to drive.
There are probably tens of thousands of other teens in San Antonio just like me, and for too many of them, a lack of reliable transportation is just one of the insurmountable challenges that holds them back and keeps them mired in poverty.
I am a teenager, a word that immediately suggests dependency, ignorance, incompetence, and inexperience. If you as a reader have ever associated these phrases with adolescence, it is in your best interest to read on.
I would describe myself as a self-sufficient teenager, which is how I gained this internship. It was something I set my sights on and made happen. Attending driving school, however, was my editor’s idea.
Too many adults prefer to ignore the reality that confronts so many of our city’s young people today. Racism, ignorance, and stereotypes hinder people in more comfortable circumstances from sharing the responsibility of helping less fortunate people in society find the opportunity to succeed. Of course, there are many wonderful people trying to make a difference, but consider the difference in public money spent on schools and education in my part of the city versus where many of you live.
For many of my teen peers who attend inner-city schools and do not have home lives where success can be emulated and aspired to, life can become an accumulation of lost jobs, postponed opportunities, and confusing paperwork, whether it’s applying for a learner’s permit or applying to attend college.
Nothing is easy in life for the teenager without a supporting parent.
Still, I am an optimist. I don’t want anyone’s labels. I have my share of frustrations, but I am not tragically independent. I have much to be grateful for, starting with the excellent high school education I am receiving at an inner-city public school. Yes, they do exist.
I attend the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, a National Blue Ribbon in-district charter school in the San Antonio Independent School District. I am keenly focused on my future and my own high expectations. My high school experience has required real discipline and has been characterized by hours of homework, strict uniform dress guidelines, coping with stress, and mastering advanced placement (AP) courses. I have somehow found the time to start a school newspaper, and that work led me to the Rivard Report and this assignment.
Rigorous study in high school has prepared me for what lies ahead and my anticipated attendance at a Tier One university. I hope to attend New York University and double major in journalism and global liberal studies. Positioning myself as a published student journalist is part of my application strategy.
On the surface, I blend in quite well with my fellow driving school classmates. From the outset I learned about the IDPE Method of Driving: Identity, Decide, Predict, and Execute. I already knew that, instinctively, traveling life’s metaphorical road.
I IDENTIFY a challenge early in the going at driver’s school, namely Department of Public Safety (DPS) regulations, including the one that states a licensed parent is needed for a minor to obtain a driving permit. I have DECIDED that I, quite frankly, have no such parent. I have PREDICTED that I will face inevitable complications while obtaining my drivers permit. And finally, I will have to EXECUTE a plan of action that allows me to get a driving permit without a parent.
IDPE, I realize, is required every day in my life.
On average, I and countless other SAISD magnet school students spend 3-4 hours a day on a school bus. Not only that, some students then ride a VIA bus home from the school bus stop, which can potentially take up another hour of time that could be spent doing something productive.
This reality is just one of the vexing challenges in life. I tell myself that surmounting such challenges will make me a stronger, more resilient adult.
Unfortunately, the Rivard Report can’t send me or anyone else to a school that teaches its students how to navigate life. We have to learn on the run, patching the holes in our family lives with helpful people wherever we can find them. It’s working for me. I’ll share some of my experiences learning how to drive in my next article. The editors thought I should introduce myself first.
I am Danielle Muro, a young woman in the process of learning how to drive myself towards a bright future of self-fulfillment and success.