Longform

Drive-by victim Karina Vargas is talking the walk

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Her school, the Rebound Ombudsman Program, is just a short distance from her house, on Montview Boulevard in Aurora. A few minutes after noon, she finally rolls through the door and into the three carpeted rooms that house the program. It's the afternoon session, and there are already a couple dozen students working quietly on computers and several teachers roaming around, encouraging them to stay on task. Karina pulls up to a computer and jiggles the mouse. One of the teachers comes over and welcomes her back.

"Is this your senior year?" the teacher asks.

"Yeah, I think so," Karina says.

The teacher tells Karina to start by taking a literacy test and then to provide a writing sample in the form of a five-paragraph essay. "Your topic is, 'Why do you want to come back to the program?'" the teacher says.

On lined paper, Karina lays out her reasons. "Before I attended here I never thought I was going to be able to go to school like before," she writes with a sharpened pencil. "I was nervous and didn't want to go through the whole high school experience. Here it was different." Karina describes how she enjoys the flexible schedule, the four-hour school days and the fact that she can work at her own pace online. Last year, she explains, she wasn't in a good mindset to be in school.

But this year, she writes, is different. This year, she's determined to finish. "I'm ready for what the year has to come and I'm just ready to get it over with!"

Ready to get it over with and move on with her life.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar