Star student battles depression to become a success

As a teenager, Kaitlyn Meats found herself at home and alone due to her struggles with anxiety and depression. 

“I couldn’t go to school anymore,” she said. “It was just too difficult for me to deal with it all.” 

Her fight against debilitating depression began when she was just an eighth-grader in a Cherokee county public school. She was already missing too many days to pass her courses, and by her sophomore year, she was a regular target of bullies. Attending school became too much to bear, she said. 

“My anxiety was to the point where I just wanted to be at home,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to school. My anxiety made me physically ill.” 

Meats intended to be homeschooled but the pressures of dealing with her psychological challenges consumed her. 

“I spent most of my time coping with anxiety,” she said. “I just couldn’t focus on both my mental health and my academics. It was too difficult at the time.” 

Eventually, she decided that it was best for her to enroll in high school courses again but, this time, at the Cherokee County Career and Technology Center. 

“I felt like I had my depression and anxiety under control but it was starting to come back because I did nothing. I was just at home,” she said. “I knew it was important for me to get back in school and to graduate with a high school diploma. I never intended to be a high school dropout.” 

Meats was a year behind her class but she focused and took five classes a semester for two years. 

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I worked on my school work at school. I worked on my school work at home. I wasn’t going to be behind anymore. I was determined to catch up.” 

To add to the stress of completing high school requirements, her father was battling a long illness before passing away in 2019. “I helped take care of him quite a bit,” she said. “I wouldn’t give up the time I spent with him for anything. We made good memories. I said ‘I love you’ every chance I got.” 

In 2020, Meats earned her high school credential and was accepted to Gadsden State Community College in the fall of 2021. She said enrolling at the Cherokee Campus was one of her best decisions. 

“I have a lot of friends here,” she said. “I have a great support system in my friends as well as the faculty and staff. Gadsden State keeps me focused. I work hard on everything I do so I’m constantly busy. I have a busy life but I love it.” 

Meats is a general studies student with plans to transfer to a four-year university to pursue being a math teacher. At Gadsden State Cherokee, she is active in the TRIO for Success Club and serves as a tutor for Student Support Services three days a week and the Cardinal Tutoring Center one day a week. 

“I wasn’t sure if students would want to use me as a tutor so we tested it,” she said. “People actually came to me for tutoring services so I was hired full time.” 

Meats, who also works at a restaurant in Gadsden, said she always encourages others to consider Gadsden State to further their education or obtain workforce training. 

“Gadsden State has so many services in place to ensure student success,” she said. “It’s a relaxed environment with flexible scheduling. You can go to school and hold down a job if you want to.” 

However, she cautions those who think Gadsden State courses aren’t as challenging as those at four-year colleges. 

“You really have to work towards whatever dream you have,” she said. “You have to put in the effort at Gadsden State to be a success. It’s hard work but it’s very much worth it.” 

Now, Meats is under the care of a psychiatrist, who has diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, dyslexia and depression. She now has it under control with regular medication, therapy and hard work. 

“I still struggle with depression and anxiety to this day,” she said. “It’s a constant struggle for me to push that block out of my way and keep moving forward. Even if you have a documented disability, you can become a college graduate. I want people to know it’s possible. You just have to work hard.”

Kaitlyn Meats tutors for Student Support Services at Gadsden State Cherokee.