Having grown up in Montague almost his entire life, Archer Strelow is a 17 year-old with a strong desire to see the world. He will be starting his senior year this fall at Golden Eagle Charter School and he hopes to attend Brown University the following year. He has a passion for film and cinematography, as well as more academic studies, like sociology and human anatomy. He wants to pursue a degree in directing and screenplay writing, with a bit of acting on the side. Most importantly though, and while cheesy, he wants to help others, any way he can.

This letter was written by a Siskiyou County high school student as part of the Siskiyou Writes! camp. Students identified a community issue or concern of interest to them, researched the issue, and composed a polished piece that proposes action of some kind.

Senior year of high school signifies a lot of things for kids. For me, it meant my last year of living in Siskiyou County. I had lived my entire life in that county and I could not have been more ready to escape. Years spent trying to fit into a community that didn’t seem to want me had left me with an aching for something new. That first day of senior year was the starting line of the last leg of my race. As soon as I had my diploma I would run as fast as I could until I couldn’t run anymore.

I hadn’t always felt that way about my home. Preschool was good. I had friends there and I never had to worry about someone telling me I couldn’t join in on their game. It was some time in first grade that I found I couldn’t stay in Girl Scouts. I had been a Brownie (one of the various ranks you can be in the program) for only a few months when my mom broke the news to me. I asked her, years later, why she pulled me out.

“I couldn’t find a way to get you to the meetings anymore.” She was sitting on her bed, a book set beside her. I had interrupted her reading.

“Why didn’t I get a ride with someone?” I asked. My mom was a single parent and we only had one car. When your parent works full time as a nurse, it can be difficult to get places.

My mom sighed, sitting up straighter on the bed. “There was some drama between the other parents. They didn’t want to take you because we aren’t part of their clique.”

I didn’t know what clique meant back then, but the concept of people who have formed their own little group and are very selective about who joins would come back to play a role in my life more than once.

Senior year also means applying to college, or at least it did for me. There is a part in those applications in which they want you to fill out all the activities you have done during your high school career. I would fill mine up with volunteer hours, part-time jobs, and personal hobbies. No clubs, no sports, nothing of that sort. Those activities were never geared towards kids like me.

I tried sports in middle school. I actually played soccer from age five to thirteen. I didn’t notice the treatment I was getting when I was younger, but as I grew it became more apparent. The snide remarks from teammates as we ran laps. Being picked last for scrimmage teams. People I thought were my friends blaming me for our losses. When you’re the kid who uses an inhaler and sprains your ankle every other practice, sports just aren’t something you’re meant for.

I could fill my application with plenty of interesting things though, I was sure of that. They would all be things I did alone, but adults had always praised me for my independence. Besides, when I escaped to college I would have the chance to reinvent myself.

It’s not that I didn’t try to be involved with my community. I joined 4H when I was in fourth grade. It was fun while it lasted, but the closest club was a thirty-minute drive away. Not to mention that everyone there already knew each other and I was the new kid. The kid with only one parent, who didn’t live on a ranch with horses and cows. I attended the club meetings for five months before finally giving up. This one wasn’t for me either.

It was my junior year when I met someone who could actually relate to me. She was a freshman that year and all she wanted to do was move away as well. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Siskiyou County, but rather, she felt that Siskiyou County didn’t like her.

The hallway was quiet that first day of my last year in high school. The building was buzzing with the electric energy of students excited to be back in school. Some excited because they could finally talk to their friends again, others because they got to show off their new school clothes. Then there was the collection of kids, the one I found myself falling into, that were excited because school was the only place they felt accepted. When they were at school they could be the person they had been waiting their whole life to be. It was the person inside of them who longed to run away to college and experience the world.

Siskiyou County was my home and it was where I was raised but I don’t think it’ll ever be my community.

In a way, I feel robbed of my childhood. It’s odd, and I feel a bit dramatic making that statement, but it’s true. When I look back on my life from the young perspective of a 17 year-old I find that my memories feel disjointed and foggy. I look back at my peers in high school and see how they loved their years living in this county, and I feel a bit envious. Of course, they loved it – it was a world designed for them. I’m glad they got to enjoy those years, at least someone did. I only wish I had as well. I will find my community somewhere new, and I know I will fit in there. Isn’t that sad, though, that I had to leave home to start searching for where I belong?