There's this saying, "you can't appreciate the light without the dark". I didn't know how true this was until I transferred from the Northmont school system in Englewood, OH to West Ottawa Public Schools in Holland, MI during my seventh grade year. At Northmont, the teachers thought I was a troubled student and treated me accordingly because when I was in first grade my teacher put it on my file that I was a problem child and it got passed on to every teacher thereafter.
I had teachers tell me I'd never amount to anything, that I wasn't talented, that I wasn't special. They not only told me this but my mother as well. It's not at all surprising that I didn't feel at all inclined to do my work or even try, resulting in a GPA of 1.7.
Then, I moved to Michigan. West Ottawa Public Schools were a beacon of light that made me flourish. The day I moved there I became a different student. I got straight A's, I participated in class, my teachers loved me, and I made friends, all within one week of being out of a toxic school system. My middle school experience, although not altogether enjoyable because, let's be honest, nobody really enjoys middle school, was better than it ever could've been. But high school, high school was something else.
West Ottawa High School was a Utopia of learning and I LOVED going to school. The teachers respected me, they showed patience, love, compassion, and above all, true intelligence. I remember being perplexed and wondering how this school system obtained all these amazing teachers, and I realized it was purposeful. When West Ottawa hired its staff, they were so incredibly thorough and intentional, and I have never appreciated an administration they way I appreciated West Ottawa's. The day I came to this realization, I even sent my superintendent a letter (Hey, Mr. Martin).
At West Ottawa, our voices as students were heard and we made a difference. We ALL mattered to the West Ottawa High School community and we were constantly educated not just on academic curriculum but on being honest, kind, generous and compassionate, and I have never been so in love.
I'll never underestimate the power of an amazing school. I could go on and on for days about the amazing opportunities that West Ottawa High School gave me, from having lunch with the Supreme Court Justices of Michigan to earning Outstanding Choir of the Year Award for the state of Michigan with one of the school's audition ensembles. I took numerous amounts of AP and IB classes, I joined every club and sport I could get my hands on, and my GPA was never lower than a 3.49.
Although I was ready to move on and not altogether sad during my high school graduation, I felt an overwhelming sense of love, joy, pride, and unsurmountable affection for my alma mater. I will forever be grateful. To the students, staff, and faculty that made West Ottawa High School what it was, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I am now studying to be a Physical Therapist at the University of Dayton in Ohio. I made the Dean's List my first semester, joined studio theater my second semester, did every show I could get my hands on, and now I write for the Odyssey Online. All of these achievements I could not have done without the love, support, and education that I was so blessedly given from the West Ottawa High School community.
A special thank you, especially, to my English teachers who taught me the joys of writing; Mrs. Deistemars, Mrs. Boeve, Mrs. Steenstra, Mrs. Andreadis, Mrs. Stoel, and Mrs. Cheney.