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Terrific Tiger: BNTHS@W senior to make anti-bullying part of life’s work

Fitting in has sometimes been a struggle for Destiny Wicks. 

“At first, it was really difficult because when you’re younger, kids are like, “Oh, you’re different, so we’re going to pick on you,’” the Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow senior remembered about her early school years. 

Wicks has lived with a visual impairment all her life, and despite others bullying her for it, she has embraced it as part of her identity. 

“Growing up, I learned that it’s just normal to me, even though it’s not normal to other people,” she said.

She didn’t feel truly accepted by other students until she started high school at New Tech.“I don’t have to be afraid of who I am, because I am visually impaired, and nobody has ever judged me about that. Teachers are very understanding, and they always work with you…New Tech really is like a family,” Wicks said.

For Wicks, a cornerstone of that family is BNTHS@W Secretary Jill Decker. “She has been a real good family friend. Whenever I get my feelings hurt or I’m just really struggling, I can just go in her office and say, ‘help me,’” Wicks said.

“At New Tech, for all staff, it’s an open-door policy,” Decker said about the essential rule that students can always confide in a school employee if needed. “We want our kids to know that they are safe here and that we care about them, and we’re concerned if they have issues.”

Decker has not only counseled her for social emotional needs but has also acted as career counselor when Wicks appealed to her about the future. “Over the years with her growth and maturity level, Destiny has confided in me and asked questions about what I felt she could do with her life. So, I tell her what I think and see in her, and the potential she has.”

Decker insisted that potential could lead her to college, although Wicks was initially doubtful about her academic prospect. “As I was getting in to high school, it was difficult for me to adjust to New Tech. So, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m not going to get in, so I should just let that go’… and then I found out about the A&M PATHS program.”

Texas A&M University’s PATHS certificate program is offered by the school’s Center on Disability and Development as a two-semester certification to train students for careers in serving people with disabilities or working with children. PATHS graduates are prepared to be direct support professionals, para-professionals or child care professionals.

With much excitement, Wicks jumped at the opportunity to apply. “I just got the acceptance email a few weeks ago … I worked really hard, with my disability, to get to go to A&M,” she said.

“Anytime a student gets accepted to college, it’s an exciting time,” Decker said. “For Destiny, it was an extremely exciting time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a student so excited … that there was a potential for her that she wasn’t aware of that she could now go on and purse something that would give her a substantial life and make it possible for her to sustain her own self.”

Wicks has already met a number of incoming PATHS students through roommate matching and says the process of finding out who she’ll share a room with has been poignant. “There are so many people doing the same program that have a disability similar to mine. It’s been really exciting getting to know them.”

Having those shared experiences, particularly about how others can sometimes misunderstand or mistreat children with disabilities, is what inspired Wicks to apply to PATHS and what motivated her choose the career path of a special education aide for younger kids. “So, I can prevent other kids from being bullied,” she said.

Joshua Wucher
May 29, 2019