My Unique High School Experience

My Unique High School Experience

My high school experience was different from the norm and I will always be appreciative of that.

Since starting college, I have found that whenever the phrase ‘high school’ comes up in conversation I am bound to end up in a lengthy conversation explaining how my high school worked.

I recall the first time I casually brought up my headmaster’s first name in conversation with friends about our principals and was confused as to why my friends were taken back by my casual demeanor around it. These scenarios along with several other instances made me realize just how unique my educational experience was compared to what many others went through.

At the end of the day, I am extremely proud to be an alum of my high school and would not have changed those four years for anything.

From the outside, we are referred to as the “hippy school of Atlanta” and best known by other schools as “the school where they don’t have to wear shoes”. That being said, my high school was still a very difficult and challenging environment. Rather than taking an AP course because it would help us towards college, we took more specific classes at the same highly challenging levels. This allowed us to take classes we were truly interested in and let teachers teach topics they found interesting rather than the same dull material.

I still took the same sort of classes as other high school students across the nation. Instead of AP French, I took a class called “French literature and film” where we read and watched French classics. Instead of AP English, I took a course titled “Marching to your own drum” where we read books and plays by authors, or about characters, who didn’t follow the norms of their time.

In general, we did not really have a strict curriculum that teachers had to follow or exact classes we had to take.

That being said, there wasn’t a complete lack of direction or structure. We did have to take one science, one English, one math, and one history based class each semester. Besides these required courses, students could take whatever they pleased! Because of this relaxed structure, the teachers could come up with classes that they wanted to teach and share with students a topic that they are personally fascinated by rather than teaching the same boring material given to them by the school system.

From a broader sense, my high school was more relaxed than most in terms of rules. The teachers and administrators trusted us to make our own decisions. We were essentially treated like normal adults. We called our teachers by their first names and were able to gain a special bond with some due to learning about each other’s personal lives. While our relationships with our teachers were considered unique, so was the learning environment.

The school was made up of old homes from the neighborhood that had been converted into classrooms, as well as a few buildings built in between to be able to hold the increasing number of students. So, because of this some buildings only have three-five classrooms. This causes you to have to go outside and walk to the next building. Rather than being stuck in one building surrounded by concrete walls and tall windows you can’t see out of, we would be able to walk outside for five or so minutes between classes to get fresh air.

Also, we did not have a cafeteria because once again, the school was built out of old homes. Homes from the early 1900s were not built to include a high school cafeteria. Because of this, students ate in the hallways or classrooms. On nice days, the benches and walls scattered around campus would be full of students, as well as the park across the street.

We were not expected to raise our hands. In fact, it was seen as weird if you did. Every class, except a limited few, were set up as 100% discussion based. This meant you were expected to share your opinions when they came to mind, just as if it was a normal conversation with friends. You wouldn’t raise your hand in a normal conversation, so why would you need to raise it in a classroom to share your opinion?

Also, if you needed to leave the room to go to the bathroom or get water you just got up at an appropriate time and left. We were once again treated like adults and expected to know when it is and isn’t appropriate to leave the room.

I think part of the reason we were given this much freedom was that they wanted us to learn life lessons by making mistakes such as missing valuable material for a test by leaving the room rather than from being punished.

In my opinion, the most valuable part of the school leadership is that they have set up an environment where they want the students to be able to discover who we are by ourselves and to form our own opinions and values in our own time.

Additionally, we did not really have a dress code more than “be presentable”. In my four years, I never once witnessed anyone getting in trouble for what they were wearing. This factor is something that I really appreciate in my high school. I hear stories from people who graduated from the “typical” high school in which they had strict dress codes and couldn’t leave the room without a hall pass or an escort.

Overall, I will always be extremely appreciative of my high school experience. It definitely was a huge proponent of shaping me into who I am today -- both academically and personally.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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I Am A College Student, And I Think Free Tuition Is Unfair To Everyone Who's Already Paid For It

Stop expecting others to pay for you.


I attend Fordham University, a private university in the Bronx.

I commute to school because I can't afford to take out more loans than I already do.

Granted, I've received scholarships because of my grades, but they don't cover my whole tuition. I am nineteen years old and I have already amassed the debt of a 40-year-old. I work part-time and the money I make covers the bills I have to pay. I come from a middle-class family, but my dad can't afford to pay off my college loans.

I'm not complaining because I want my dad to pay my loans off for me; rather I am complaining because while my dad can't pay my loans off (which, believe me, he wants too), he's about to start paying off someone else's.

During the election, Bernie frequently advocated for free college.

Now, if he knew enough about economics he would know it simply isn't feasible. Luckily for him, he is seeing his plan enacted by Cuomo in NY. Cuomo has just announced that in NY, state public college will be free.

Before we go any further, it's important to understand what 'free' means.

Nothing is free; every single government program is paid for by the taxpayers. If you don't make enough to have to pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. If you live off welfare and don't pay taxes, then something like this doesn't bother you. When someone offers someone something free, it's easy to take it, like it, and advocate for it, simply because you are not the one paying for it.

Cuomo's free college plan will cost $163,000,000 in the first year (Did that take your breath away too?). Now, in order to pay for this, NY state will increase their spending on higher education to cover these costs. Putting two and two together, if the state decides to raise their budget, they need money. If they need money they look to the taxpayers. The taxpayers are now forced to foot the bill for this program.

I think education is extremely important and useful.

However, my feelings on the importance of education does not mean that I think it should be free. Is college expensive? Yes -- but more so for private universities. Public universities like SUNY Cortland cost around $6,470 per year for in-state residents. That is still significantly less than one of my loans for one semester.

I've been told that maybe I shouldn't have picked a private university, but like I said, I believe education is important. I want to take advantage of the education this country offers, and so I am going to choose the best university I could, which is how I ended up at Fordham. I am not knocking public universities, they are fine institutions, they are just not for me.

My problems with this new legislation lie in the following: Nowhere are there any provisions that force the student receiving aid to have a part-time job.

I work part-time, my sister works part-time, and plenty of my friends work part-time. Working and going to school is stressful, but I do it because I need money. I need money to pay my loans off and buy my textbooks, among other things. The reason I need money is because my parents can't afford to pay off my loans and textbooks as well as both of my sisters'. There is absolutely no reason why every student who will be receiving aid is not forced to have a part-time job, whether it be working in the school library or waitressing.

We are setting up these young adults up for failure, allowing them to think someone else will always be there to foot their bills. It's ridiculous. What bothers me the most, though, is that my dad has to pay for this. Not only my dad, but plenty of senior citizens who don't even have kids, among everyone else.

The cost of living is only going up, yet paychecks rarely do the same. Further taxation is not a solution. The point of free college is to help young adults join the workforce and better our economy; however, people my parents' age are also needed to help better our economy. How are they supposed to do so when they can't spend their money because they are too busy paying taxes?

Free college is not free, the same way free healthcare isn't free.

There is only so much more the taxpayers can take. So to all the students about to get free college: get a part-time job, take personal responsibility, and take out a loan — just like the rest of us do. The world isn't going to coddle you much longer, so start acting like an adult.

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Writing Saved My Sanity

Write it all down when you can't talk to anyone.


I love writing.

I have since elementary school, and I've dreamed of becoming a published author. I started off writing stupid plays in elementary school, then it grew it almost writing a full-blown novel in middle school. I have no idea where that thing went to. It was all notebook paper and bad writing. In high school, my writing was kinda pushed to the side so I could focus on school. When I entered college, I started writing small poems about my now ex-boyfriend.

I was scared to express myself to him sometimes, the intensity of my feelings for him scared me. So instead of telling him, I wrote them down. When I tried to share them with him, he hated it. He thought writing down feelings was weird and creepy. So I didn't share anything else with him. When we finally broke up for good, everything just poured out of me. What I couldn't express verbally, I wrote or typed out.

I always have ideas flowing through my head. They never cease and I wouldn't want them to. Writing gives me an escape, from stress, work, school, or fights. It gives me a place to vent and to be open with everything. This is a reason I love writing for Odyssey, not only has this place brought me amazing friends but revived my love for writing. I'm never without my notebook anymore, I'd get distracted in class by an idea and have to write I think then and there.

I love sharing my more personal writing with close friends, especially my poems as of late. I found that I have a voice for young women who find themselves in a toxic relationship much like mine was. I want to speak out and show them that you can grow from the bullshit. It may take some time, but you will be better.

Writing saved my sanity. It allows me to express myself without having to use my actual voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate public speaking. I tend to psych myself out leading up to it. My current projects include writing for Odyssey every week, I'm in the process of trying to continue my short stories, and I'm excited to announce that I'm currently working on my very first poetry book!

Writing has given me so much, and I'm so looking forward to making a career out of something I love so much.

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