Cheri L. Powers
January 31, 2005
“The Little Engine That Could”
Have you ever read the book “The Little Engine that could?” Did you know that throughout the book each character told the little red engine “yes you can?” All the little red engine had to do was say to himself,” I think I can, I think I can!” I am that little red engine because I have beaten the odds and difficulties in my life due to my handicaps.
I was born in Africa, Asmara Ethiopia. I was born a preemie (premature) therefore; I only weighed 4lbs. I was the first baby born in 1959, I even made the first page headline of the military base’s newspaper. Growing up I had to deal with several birth defects. I am deaf in one ear, therefore; I have to wear two hearing aids. I’m also blind in the left eye, which I have to wear glasses.
I do not remember much of my life as a baby. When I was in Africa or when I returned to the United States in 1961. I can tell you throughout my elementary school years I was not like the other kids. As I approached the third grade, my family and the school found out I had a hearing problem. The teacher’s found out during reading class. I would pronounce the word Island not in just one word, but two I pronounced it Is Land. At the age of six, I entered Walter Reed Medical Center where I was fitted with my first hearing aid. I wore a harness on my chest and had the cord come up through my clothes with an earpiece which went into my left ear. During the same year I was having problems with my eyes, and had to be fitted with glasses before entering the fourth grade.
My family went back to Africa, where I entered the fifth grade. The three years in Africa were my hardest and most difficult times in school; because I also had a learning problem I was not grasping, comprehending or understanding what was being taught in class. Because of the learning disability I had to take Special Education classes. It made it easier, but my grades were not so great, I had to work hard if not harder with my schoolwork to understand what was expected of me. For the life of me I do not know why the school system assigned Spanish in my curriculum in the sixth grade, they knew that I had learning and hearing problems. To this day I only remember how to say, “Hello how are you?” in Spanish. At least I learned something out of it. Seventh grade was a blur. I don’t even remember much of schoolwork. I was sick most of the time with a broken right arm or a burned right hand. The unthinkable happened; civil war broke out with live gunfire and bombs going off! Everyone was frightened and tensions rose in the schools and our homes. After a three-year tour all U.S. Military personnel and their families had to leave Kagnew Station and return to the United States because of the out break of a possible war.
Even though my family moved every three years because of my father being in the military, it was hard starting over in a new school and making new friends, and whenever we made friends we had to leave. Only this time now that we’re back in the United States there was no more military school, my siblings and I were put the public school system. I entered the eighth grade in the year 1973, at Fauquier Junior High, Warrenton, Virginia. You talk about being confused I was terrified. You remember that little red engine? All I kept saying to myself is, “I think I can, I think I can”. I couldn’t understand why teenagers my age weren’t being respectful of the teachers. If you were in military school you were taught to respect your teachers. Responding with, “Yes Sir”, “No Sir” or “Yes Maam”, “No Maam”. These kids were talking, yelling and playing the radio loud in class. We had this nice English teacher, Mrs. Hicks in the eighth grade; they were so mean to her that she walked out and never came back. I got through the eighth grade by the skin of my teeth. That summer I became withdrawn, I found solace with a puppy, I named him Poco meaning (small). He was a beagle pup and never left my side. I loved that puppy, and to this day I still have a picture of him. My Father left for a three-year tour to Korea this time the family was not allowed to go. My Mother was left yet again with three kids. Off to the ninth grade.
During my first three years in high school, we were living in Warrenton Virginia. I was ready to start a new phase in my life with new teachers, new friends, I thought of the phrase from the little engine that could, “I think I can, I think I can!” I barely passed ninth, tenth, and the eleventh grade, but, “I finally got it” in the twelfth grade; I was on the honor roll my whole senior year. I was so proud of myself. I graduated high school in “1977”. Now Thirty years later I am back in school, college this time, to earn an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development. Today I am beating the odds with my handicaps. At the age of 46, I am a survivor because like, “The Little Engine That Could” I can say, “I think I can! I think I can!