missouri academy of science, mathematics, and computing
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What was the Academy?

This is my attempt at explaining the now non-existent place known as the Academy, from a 2017 graduate (Challenger) of MASMC.

What was the Academy?

Since leaving the Academy, I too often I get asked a question I don't know how to answer: so what school year are you? To which I answer many ways such as "Well I'm 18, so this is my first year of REAL COLLEGE and my first year here, so freshman?", or "Well technically this is my third year of school, I'm completing my sixth semester, so Junior?", or "Well I have over 100 credits so I'm technically a Senior, but I still have a couple years left to earn my bachelors," and yet sometimes I just say I'm a sophomore because that seems the most believable even though I've already earned my Associate of Science degree. I don't like having to explain myself because I don't want to seem like I'm bragging or trying to one-up someone else, in fact, most of the time I'm not the one to bring up the fact that I went to a "special program for really smart kids and am basically a senior" (a direct quote from some of my closer friends). So, now that my school has closed, I thought it'd be the perfect time to let out all of the information I've gathered and since processed in an attempt to enlighten others on what me and 838 other teens experienced at the Missouri Academy prior to graduating along with some of my opinions and experiences (and then people can decide for themselves what year in school I am in).

To start off, the Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Computing was a two year residential early-entrance-to-college program designed for high achieving students. You had to apply during your traditional sophomore year of high school and had to hit such requirements like top 10% of your class, cumulative STEM GPA of over a 3.5 (which meant only classes in the STEM field, and disregarded things like history, art, gym class, etc.), have a minimum ACT score of 23 cumulative and a 24 in math (or equivalent on the SAT), etc. Another crucial thing was they were more interested in the students that had little to no commitments at their "sending schools", so they didn't look for club, sport, or any kind of extracurricular involvement. They wanted people who had nothing to lose and everything to gain from leaving high school, risking it all, and willing to work for their desired outcome. This school was no walk in the park, as demonstrated by the average 20-25% drop out rate, most commonly caused by a student dropping below the minimum 2.75 GPA requirement or failing a class that they didn't have time to retake. Yet, if you can make it in and make it to the end, when you graduate you receive your high school diploma and an Associate of Science.

With that being said, we had pretty strict rules to keep us in check and to try and reduce the drop out rate. There was a nightly 'check-in' from 7-8pm, after which you were required to stay in the dorm building or you could go to the library, and from 8-10pm Sunday-Thursday we had study hours. Along with study hours, we were expected to be on floor and getting ready for bed by 10:30pm Sunday-Thursday and by 11:30pm Friday and Saturday. There were weekly seminar/colloquium classes that were essentially large group meetings with out class teaching us how to apply to colleges, live by "IQ" (Integrity and Quality), deal with our mental health, and get feedback from us as to how the Academy could be better. Not to mention there was a minimum course load of 15 hours a semester, an expectation to be active in 3 clubs, and an added 'May Session' in which we took 1 class (yielding 3 to 5 credits) in 4 weeks. Also, it should be mentioned that all of these courses are regular college courses provided to both Academy and traditional students at Northwest Missouri State University, so it wasn't your average AP course that may or may not be transferable, these are all courses taught by professors (most of which had terminal degrees in their field).

Now all of that sounds like we could never have fun and all we did was sit and study in our rooms all day and become information robots, but that's not true. We could get exemptions from study hours each week based on our cumulative GPA, meaning we could also go and get 'late-night union' food or go on a walk around campus and play on the elementary schools playground. Often times, in the feedback surveys we had to take, if we got enough people to comment "We want cupcakes, they would be very beneficial in improving the academy," they would get a bunch of huge cupcakes and tons of toppings and have them available to us students, and that happened 2 or 3 times each semester. We had karaoke nights, movie nights, pool, ping pong, and air hockey tournaments, wing games (kind of like Harry Potter houses with points and a trophy), talent showcases, themed dances for Valentines day and Halloween, and a typical prom (because we were still a high school at the end of the day). Sometimes we'd go outside to play Frisbee when it was nice or stand around the fire pit in front of South Complex. There were clubs like robotics and yoga club that got people up and moving, thinking, and being productive on a Saturday morning when all we wanted to do was sleep in. Group trips to Ali's bakery were frequent because we burned all of the donuts calories on our 45 minute walk there and back. Sometimes we even had sleepovers, which meant sleeping on the floor of one dorm room when your bed was less than 30 feet away. We were all normal high school students besides our academics for the most part.

That's not to say the Academy didn't have problems. While you had to be academically strong, there was also an emotional and mental strength required in order to make it through. Many of the students were affected (and to this day are still affected) by anxiety and depression. With about half of the population of the Academy being international students and the rest of them having homes 3+ hours away, many people were homesick. The stress and pressure put on the students to excel was usually overwhelming, and many people didn't want or know how to ask for help from our counselor. As much as the staff tried to minimize our issues, mental health problems were something that became normal with many students being on some kind of prescription medicine or even having a service animal within the dorm. During my time, many of my friends (including my roommates, now ex-boyfriend, and myself) struggled with so much that we as 16/17/18 year old's didn't know how to handle. I've watched them have break downs, panic attacks, sob for hours, and talk through moments when they honestly wanted to just go home and quit trying. While the Academy was two years in which I grew tremendously and became the person I am today, my mental health is something I'm still working on and trying to repair to some extent after the Academy.

The Academy was a lot of things. It welcomed the Juniors and encouraged them to thrive. It celebrated the Seniors many accomplishments over their two years. It worked to be better for the next class by trying to fix the problems of the previous class. It was a home away from home and whether you liked it or not, the students and staff became your family. There is a bond there that can't be replicated based on the experiences everyone had. No one will understand the stress brought on by yellow walls quite like an Academy kid. No one will understand how great it was to win the Wing games trophy (or horribly, practically purposefully) lose the wing games quite like an Academy kid. No one truly understands the Academy quite like an Academy kid. The Academy gave the students experiences early on to learn from mistakes so when we were ready to walk into the real world, we wouldn't be going in blind. The Academy was the extra step before college that made college easier and more manageable than it would have been if I hadn't attended.

To my best knowledge, there is a way to rebuild the Academy elsewhere (specifically at a school with a greater focus in STEM and more funding). While the Academy wasn't the typical college experience, it was an experience that honestly might not be easy to replicate without the same amazing staff and dedicated professors. While one day I hope to see a revamped version of the Academy with similar opportunities available to Missouri students, it's nice to know that all of the problems related to the Academy can no longer continue. If it is revamped though, I hope they continue naming each incoming class like in the past, then maybe people will feel more connected to the Pathfinders, Pacesetters, Explorers, Discoverers, Voyagers, Trailblazers, Navigators, Vanguards, Adventurers, Pioneers, Guardians, Seekers, Trekkers, Trendsetters, Innovators, Challengers, and Dreamers.

(And to answer the question, I'm a Senior with 4 more semester if I don't take a Co-Op)

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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