I started first grade in the West Lafayette Public School system and graduated in 2001 from the Junior/Senior High School which is nestled in the heart of the city, mere blocks from Purdue University. The community is small and produced many high achieving students. State tests did not run my schools, instead they were grounded in providing a solid, comprehensive education. I had choices like French and German (XXXX only had Spanish), several AP options, a great athletic program that brought the community together at games and also a solid music/theater/debate program that served to round out my extracurricular activities. I was nurtured, supported, and expected to excel, both from the home front but also at school. My classmates all graduated and scattered across the country and the world. From Japan to Switzerland, Colorado to California, they are each pursuing destiny in their own ways.
Comparing those opportunities to those a majority of my current students have is difficult. Knowing that education is the key to my former classmates’ success, I have internalized deeply how important good schools are to a child’s opportunities and options. The path I’ve been on since high school graduation 10 years ago has been winding and an adventure, but it is a journey I have been able to chose for myself. It is not a path that happened by chance, I was set up for success by the community I existed within both at home and at school.
By grounding myself in these experiences, I believe I have a good foundation for working to make that happen for kids (and families) in the schools I’ve been so lucky to serve. Making sure they get their ACT scores where they need to be to get into the schools they dream of, that their reading level (measured by the SRI) will not hold them back from accessing a college level textbook, that their math skills don’t prohibit them from any course, and that they’ve had a laboratory science experience that will set them up for success in an increasingly technological society are some of my ‘big rocks’ as we talk about in Institute action planning verbage.
I have been hit by so many emotions in such a short time since I arrived here in West Lafayette 3 hours ago for my 10 year high school reunion. Tomorrow I will make the two hour drive back to Chicago where I dive in for another week of Institute and life within the Institute bubble. Corps members start teaching tomorrow and Schurz High School will finally be up and running at full capacity. I cannot wait! I’m already giddy with excitement again for this next step.
Plus, we will be finishing at school everyday around 3:45 pm, so I will be able to get my workouts back into my schedule. This first week was like existing in the eye of a tornado at certain points, I know this one will be different.
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