I was sixteen. Right in the middle of puberty. And I couldn’t connect with the world. I couldn’t understand why I did the things I did. I’d never look people in the eye

(1/4) “I was sixteen. Right in the middle of puberty. And I couldn’t connect with the world. I couldn’t understand why I did the things I did. I’d never look people in the eye. I always looked down at my shoes. Other students bullied me. They’d push me into lockers. They’d throw things at me. They’d say: ‘Dina’s not talking. Dina won’t care.’ Older people would do things to me that were bad. And they’d say: ‘Don’t tell anyone honey, this is a secret. This is between you and me.’ I didn’t trust people. I was really afraid of the world. Sometimes I’d just want to curl up and disappear. But that’s when I met Ed. He was our special education teacher. He was a big jolly man with nice curly hair. He always had a messy desk, but he had so many great teaching ideas. He helped us bake bread and muffins to learn about math. We made cells from Jell-O. The neatest thing about Ed was that he had a learning disability too. He told us that he was picked on when he was a kid. And everyone told him that he was going to sit at home and not do anything with his life. But he became a teacher. And I thought: ‘If I have a learning disability, and Ed has a learning disability, then that means I can be Ed.’”

One thing I love about Washington is that it’s constantly reminding you that it doesn’t need you

Adults guess and assume that I’m not going to understand things just because I’m a little kid. And it can be frustrating