Senior column: A great place to be
Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 - 11:26pm
Gargoyle senior editor
Posted Tuesday, May 26, 2009
IN LESS THAN a week, I will be part of the distinguished body of Uni's approximately 3,600 living alumni.
Although I don't yet know how my selected college, Emory University, will impact me, I anticipate that my time at Uni will have been much more critical to my growth and development.
Uni has given me a distinct community that has influenced me to take a personal stake in its well being. Uni's community has helped me to develop and apply my leadership skills.
Being around teachers and adults who treat you like adults has forced me to develop valuable communication skills.
Admittedly, Uni's small size can feel a bit limiting at times. But I've found that Uni's diversity of cultures, personalities, and talents makes it anything but insular.
At Uni I was able to participate in interscholastic athletics — an opportunity I might not have had at other schools. Uni's "no-cut" athletics policy enables all students to participate — and more than 60 percent do. What Uni coaches do with the minimal space and resources they are afforded impresses me.
Sally Walker, Doug Mynatt, and Rebecca "Merf" Murphy have been committed to teaching real physical education rather than just "going through the motions." They have developed an outstanding physical education program whose quality and intensity is likely rivaled by only a few high schools around the country. How many high schools require students to complete a 5K?
I know Uni students complain about the fitness program, but I would guess most students appreciate the benefits of their improved physical fitness and health. One study shows that daily physical activity improves memory, cognition, focus, and academic performance.
The freedom at Uni is a wonderful thing. When I was soliciting student quotes for a promotional publication for Uni, one of my classmates, Andrew Lovdahl, had this to say about what he likes about Uni: "Free periods are actually free. Every once in a while I stop and realize how much of a luxury unsupervised time is for high school students."
The freedom at Uni has allowed me to grow and has helped develop in me an enhanced sense of responsibility.
Uni students are sometimes messy and don't always pick up after themselves, but there are few schools where students can leave their lockers unlocked, let alone wide open, without worrying about theft. There are few schools where students are more often locked out (thanks to the new prox card system) than locked in.
And then there's the academics. Uni students complain about homework and tests, but the hard work pays off — and it shows. Uni students continually stand out by all measures of success.
At Uni I had to learn how to manage my time well. Some days, between early-morning cross country practice, after-school practice, and working the scoreboard at Uni basketball games, I would be at school more than I would be at home.
Being in a culture where it's OK to apply yourself and excel has been very rewarding. I've learned to appreciate all of my classmates' extraordinary talents, whether it's being great at chess, ventriloquism, running a 400 in 48.99 seconds, starting a band, singing, programming, acting, solving math problems — and quickly, too — painting, writing, volunteering … the list goes on.
Uni has traditions as unique as its students. For example, Agora Days — a week where the regular curriculum is replaced with more than 100 special-interest classes taught by students, teachers, parents, and community professionals. Or the thousands of brightly colored handprints of Uni's graduates adorning the lounge walls. These traditions have provided me with a wealth of defining experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
Uni's environment is relaxed and comfortable, and the school has a strong community focus. Students help each other. Students are involved in their communities — they volunteer their time and raise money for local charities.
Teachers really care about students. Students and faculty know each other well. I've known most of my teachers now for five years. It's amazing to me that I've been at Uni for a half or a third the time many of my teachers have been at Uni — and that's no short time either.
Uni has built a tradition of greatness in many ways and provides an excellent high school experience and education.
But Uni has its share of problems: funding problems, facility limitations, and schedule problems. As part of its funding problem, the school cannot compensate teachers as much as they deserve. Uni's building is old, worn down, in need of repair, and limited in space. There are sometimes scheduling problems due to facility limitations. Uni has one of the longest school days in the country.
Luckily, however, these problems are mostly mechanics that can be fixed. If Uni were to improve its facilities it could provide students and faculty with the space and resources they need. Advocating Uni to legislators and potential donors could help fix the funding problem. A serious look at how curriculum innovation can be coupled with schedule improvements could provide expanded opportunities while also shortening the school day.
I am so grateful to my teachers, counselors, and Uni's staff who have believed in me and helped me during my time here. I can't express the affection I have for my classmates and friends who have shared their talents, led by example, and given me great and enduring memories over my five years at Uni.
It is with great sadness that my time as a student here is over. But it is with enthusiasm that, with my class, I become an alumnus of Uni.
As my final words, I encourage my classmates and all Uni alums to think about the high school experience Uni has given them, and to remain an active part of the school's community.
This isn't "goodbye" — just "until next time."