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Making Lemonade

Jordan Thompson was a student speaker at this year’s Summer Institute in Orlando, FL. Below is his speech as prepared. You can also watch his speech!

Important events in a life affect a person’s attitude and character. I went through a traumatic experience that changed my life forever. At the age of ten, I lost my father to cancer. This experience, along with my family and AVID, helped shape me into who I am today.

It was a sunny day on October 15, 2011. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was very excited that day because my father was coming home from the hospital. When I walked into my dad’s bright hospital room, he smiled with happiness and replied, “Let’s go home.”  After waiting in the hospital for a few hours, my father was ready to leave. We laughed and talked on the drive home.  But when my father stepped into our front door, he collapsed onto the hardwood floor. As my mother administered CPR, I heard her fearful voice yell, “Dial 911!”  I screamed with fear and ran to the phone. Soon, the ambulance attendants arrived and began to work on my father. My heart began to sink. I prayed to God, “Please do not take my father away.”  He was the closest thing to perfection that I had seen on this earth. We finally arrived at AnMed Medical Center, and a nurse escorted us to the family room. We waited, and after a few hours, a doctor said nothing more could be done to help him. Losing my father influenced my life in various ways. I went through deep depression; I felt a loss of security, and I had to learn how to live again.

During the few months after my father passed away, I began going through depression. Many activities that used to be enjoyable no longer held my interest. I no longer bothered to practice football or even play my PlayStation 3. Spending time with my closest friends held no pull or consolation for me. Although a USC fan, the excitement of a game did not thrill me. There were often times when I stayed in bed and cried all day. My friends and family could definitely tell that I was not like I used to be. Depression and anger were my only friends.

My father, my best friend, was gone; consequently, I lost a sense of security. My father told me that he would never leave me and that he would always be there for me. My AVID teacher Mrs. Piel and the AVID tutors helped me discuss my fears and helped me concentrate on going to college. Mrs. Piel, fosters her class with a family atmosphere, and that made it easier to share my hurts and fears. I also gained encouragement from our positive peer groups that helped give me the strength to go on. She taught me numerous skills like critical thinking and goal-setting, that became coping strategies. And class activities such as Philosophical Chairs helped me to reflect on the positive memories of my father instead of my great loss. Although my security was shaken, with Mrs. Piel’s help I began to feel a little more stable.

With this foundation, although my father was gone, I began to learn how to live again. To help me get through the tough times, I began to think about the lessons my father taught me. One memory was our discussion of his favorite quote: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  When my father said make lemonade, I had a puzzled look on my face. He said, “When life does not go as planned, do not give up or complain. Make the best of every situation.”  I remember him telling me that life does not always turn out the way we plan, and that we must look at each situation in a positive way. This reflection of his words was just what I needed. I chose to look at the positive side of this loss. Even though I miss my father dearly, I carry him and the lessons he taught me deep within my heart. When I have a bad day, I know that it will not last long. My father taught me to focus on the sweetness of the lemonade, not the bitterness. I know that I will be okay and make it through this traumatic experience because my father taught me how to make lemonade. This refreshing lemonade was the life force of my journey to live on.

My father’s passing affected my life in many ways. It changed my life in such a way that it made me a new person. AVID changed my life in many ways also. My depression turned into hope and my anger turned into determination. I am no longer that angry boy. AVID has helped me focus on my life goals. One of my main goals is to finish high school and enroll in Furman University on an academic scholarship. Depression is no longer my best friend. I am confident and secure in the knowledge that my father will always be a part of me. I will always remember my AVID tutor Michael who taught me to focus on my goals and to never give up. Therefore, I live and face each new day with a smile that would make my father proud.

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