Revision Street: Lisa Gardner, 19

Revision Street: Lisa Gardner, 19

When I first came I was actually scared. I was scared because of my age and I didn’t think I was actually gonna fit in, which I don’t fit in cause everybody act like kids, but I love school. When I got here, there were kids my age and there was even a couple kids that was 21, so I wasn’t all that nervous and I wasn’t scared no more.

Lisa recently switched schools, and now attends Innovations High School, a project-based media and arts-focused charter school on the South Side that serves less than 200 students between the ages of 16 and 21, most of whom are seeking a diploma after dropping out of a previous school. We are in the cafeteria, a cheerless basement enclosed by hundreds of skinny lockers. Students come in and out, cracking loud jokes, bouncing basketballs.

I came here last year around February. I had gotten pregnant like a fool. [Laughs.] I dropped out and stopped going to school. I was out of school for like half a year, so when my best friend told me about this school, ‘cause her friend was going here, I came and I checked it out and I liked the school. So I just rushed off to school here, that’s when I started going.

brick wall(photo by P.U.B.L.I.C.)

So do you take care of a little one at home, too?

No, she passed. She wasn’t eating inside of me, so basically she was starving and she had a bad heart. Her heart was growing faster than she was, so her heart was sticking out her chest and she had a bad lungs, and there was something else wrong with her but I forget. I try not to remember. Then I felt even stupider I couldn’t make it to school everyday because I waited nine whole months for my baby and still didn’t have a baby, so it was like I dropped out of school for nothing. Like a fool.

I was scared. I was real scared, but at the same time I just loved my baby. I didn’t know what to do, what to think, I just scared. I got used to being pregnant, nine whole months, you get used to that. I was ready to meet my baby. Usually I bust out the tears but I’m too nervous for that.

Only person I about had was my mama but she was always working so she really wasn’t there either. That’s why when I came here I liked it so much cause I feel like I was at home. Everybody helped when you needed it, nobody let you give up. This is a nice school. I love this school, I want my little nephew to come here, he ain’t kicked out of school but I just want him to come here so bad because I think he’d really make a lot of progress here.

What classes do you enjoy most?

Architecture. So much stuff I learn in that class, it’s amazing. I’m like, wow, I might want to go into construction ‘cause it’s fun. It’s really fun. Building something and seeing what you build.

I have a lot of options. I think I have a lot of options cause there’s not a lot of women in construction, and if they could see the stuff that I’m coming in with, especially if I’m going to college for architecture, and they see what I’m learning just from what I learned here, I think I will have a lot of options.

I live on 71st and Ada in Englewood. I live with my mama and my sister, my older sister, my older sister’s four kids—so my little niece, my three little nephews and my little sister. There’s a lot of us, it’s a big nice house.

If you was to come here everyday you would see that nobody acts their age. They act like this is a grammar school. They’re childish, that’s what I believe. They’re just childish. I ain’t saying the whole school acting like that, but the majority of the kids acting like that and they just have no respect for their peers.

I never felt like a teenager, and when I was really little I never felt like a kid. I always felt like grown ‘cause I had so much stuff on my hands. My sisters was never around. I always took care of their kids, I’m like eight years old, trying to cook eggs for my nieces and nephews. So I always felt older than what I was.

They all around the same age and there are like ten of them, they all around one or two, and I’m like eight years old trying to cook eggs for them. My mom was always at work, my brother was there but he was always in his own little world, and my other two sisters they moved out and they were always bringing the kids to my mama’s house. I was always stuck with the kids. I never felt like a child, never.

That’s the first thing I remember, trying to cook for my nieces and nephews, that’s the only thing I remember. I don’t really remember when I was real, real small. I don’t remember the first day I learned how to walk, I don’t remember none of that. The main thing I remember is trying to take care of my family when I was little. I love my family.