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One Colorado Dropout Who Found Her Voice Through Poetry

courtesy Colorado Public Television

Being a teenager is hard enough - but when you’ve dropped out of high school and are dealing with depression, self expression can be hard. For 17-year-old Karen Gonzales Tapia, the answer was poetry.

She was introduced to poetry while taking classes in the GED Plus program at Denver Public Schools. On the last day of the class Tapia had to get up and read her poem.

"I started noticing that I have depression because I didn't do what I loved anymore," Karen Gonzales Tapia said. "I was just like in my room all the time. I like literally would like sleep the whole day instead of actually going outside and playing with my sisters."

Tapia was in 9th grade when she decided to drop out, figuring that traditional school wasn't "the best thing for me but maybe a class of like two or three people at a time is better for me." The poetry workshop was put on by Denver-based Minor Disturbance (and a note of disclosure, was one of four sponsored by Colorado Public Television as part of the American Graduate program).

"I actually really liked the Minor Disturbance workshop because it led me and my other classmates to open up more and know a little bit more about each other," she said.

Her first poem was about her depression, about trying to do anything to make her happy. It was also about her depression medication and her aversion to it. Her poem, and a video from the workshop are included below:

I'm feeling it when my anti-depressants are kicking in. I'm feeling it when my scars are gone. I'm feeling it when I'm the perfect weight to make me happy. This is my life and I'll do anything that will make me feel happy. I'm feeling it when I don't need a shitty pill to control me. I'm finally feeling it when I don't need to fake a smile.

"It actually felt good writing them down and letting other people know who I am and what's my past," she said. "When I'm writing I feel like I can actually be happy without a pill and I feel like I could be happy without any support and be happy for myself."

Tapia will be the first in her family to go to college, she wants others to know that a GED doesn't mean that you are less of a person than someone with a high school diploma.

"There is hope when you have depression or any other problems in your life that if I could do it, anybody else could overcome it because it is only temporary. It's not going to be there the rest of your life."

Karen Gonzales Tapia has taken two of the four tests in order to receive her GED. She plans to return to the program for the fall semester.

Editor's Note: This story is based on interviews with Karen Gonzales Tapia and a video project produced by Colorado Public Television.


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