Shaker Heights High School senior David Asante remembers his first conversation with Shaker Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. “I went to a City Council meeting and talked to Dr. Hutchings afterwards,” he recalls. “He told me that if I really wanted something that I had to keep on after it because not everyone was going to help me. I was in the eighth grade when he said that to me and ever since then, I’ve run with it.”
Last year, as a junior, David ran with it all the way to getting himself elected to the Speaker of the House for his Government class Model Congress simulation last December. The experience was one that changed the way he looks at himself, his teachers and his future.
“I’m usually a pretty quiet guy, but for just once, I wanted for everyone to understand where I was coming from and to use my voice to do it,” David says. His teacher, Victoria Berndt, says he stood before 50 students, most of whom he didn’t know, and delivered a speech that earned him the position. “After he became speaker, he began to collaborate with new peers and kept an open mind for other opinions regarding difficult law topics. He also spent a lot of time learning more about his new role,” Ms. Berndt says.
David says the experience taught him how to lead, how to listen, how to synthesize ideas into a cohesive message, how to prioritize and how to see another person’s perspective. He also began to think about himself differently. “This year, I decided to take psychology,” David says. “Ms. Berndt recommended me for Honors Psychology, but I wasn’t put in that class. So I spoke to my teacher and my counselor and I pushed for it and I pushed for it and now I’m in honors.”
Thanks to Ms. Berndt’s encouragement, David also realized that teachers aren’t caring because it’s part of their job description. He says now he understands that teachers genuinely want to help students. “Ms. B didn’t want me to fail. She saw that I was doing well in school and really wanted to help,” David says. “Now when I think about complicated situations or going to college, I just try to think about what Ms. B would do.”
David isn’t sure what’s next for him after graduation, but right now, he’s working on a clothing line for friends. The name of the line is especially fitting: FYM, which stands for Follow Your Mind. “It pushes everyone to think about what they’re doing,” he says. “It’s really the perfect quote for everything.” And college is on the short list for sure. “Ever since my perspective changed I noticed that a lot of people waste their talents and in high school, there are so many people with so many talents,” he sais. “I want to tell people not to waste their talents and not to give up on what they want to do because otherwise, you’ll never know how far you could have gone.”