Who is Christopher L. Gadsden as a person and as a professional?
I grew up in one of the best states in the country- New York. Yes, I have a bias but it shaped who I am. I was born in the small town of Johnson City, located near Binghamton, NY. My parents who were born and raised in the south, taught us- my brother, sister, and me- to be supportive of all people and to help those who didn't have a voice. This principle has stuck with me for most of my life. Raised in the late 1970s and early 1980s in a small town, we knew everyone who lived on the block-they were all Caucasian. Even though our life experiences were different, our foundations were built by playing games and having fun with each other. Even today, our bonds are still strong.
From Johnson City, our family moved to Poughkeepsie, NY because my dad was transferred to another facility. Here, I had my first experience being amongst other Black people-non-family. Back in Johnson City, we were the only black family in the neighborhood, school, church, and any other activity that we participated in. I was in 3rd grade when we moved and needed some time to understand the culture, lingo, and practices that take place within the Black culture.
After three years, the next big move was to NJ. The middle school that I attended didn't have any black students, before my siblings and me, or so I thought. This was a tough time in my life. The other students didn't know how to befriend black people so they were mean to us. They called my brother and me, including gorillas, the "N" word, and many other names that don't need to be shared. My parents visited the school and talked with the teacher many times to help change the school's culture. My mom eventually became the school board president.
Playing sports was the linchpin that changed the perspective of my fellow students. When my brother and I challenged all the boys in a game of basketball where it was two on five, we won every time. It was remarkable because we were 6th graders playing 7th and 8th graders and beating them soundly. We had finally found a bridge of connection. Now the same boys who called us all those names are great life-long friends.
Academically, teachers thought I was behind- which I wasn't. Performing in school was just not high on my priority list. Let's step back for a minute. In 1st and 2nd grade I had a stuttering problem. I underwent many years of training to get my tongue out of the way when I spoke. From 4th – 8th grade I met with a speech therapist. So, combine that history with a teacher telling my parents that I would never make it out of the 3rd grade. I wouldn't ever make it in life because I was stupid. Thankfully, we moved the next school year because of the previously mentioned job transfer.
I am sharing this information with you about my early childhood because it has informed how I perform my job as a school counselor. In becoming a counselor, you have to be aware of how a person was raised because this will undoubtedly shape your interactions with the people or persons you want to help. Throughout this book, you will read experiences that are mine or from others who have permitted me to share in hopes that it will help you understand what it truly means to be a great school counselor in the K-12 educational system.