A Reflection On My Time In High School

one of my senior pictures taken by Cameron Smith, a junior at Dorman who has worked with the Herald Journal

Tomorrow I graduate.

It feels as if every social media post of mine for the last month, or more, has been about me graduating and me getting accepted into college and everything that is about to change within the span of only a few short months. I promise to try and not ramble through this essay. I would like to keep it short, and I plan on sectioning each piece off with a header so you can skip around if you would like. Without a few ado, here are some reflections from a recent high school graduate.

Not Trying Isn’t Cool

It is so easy to go through high school and to graduate without even trying. I see people do it all the time, especially at a school the size of Dorman High. There are so many students who take the easiest classes possible or get the lowest grades possible to still that a credit for that particular class. I know someone who racked up over 150 absences between 3 classes in a single semester but was still able to graduate due to the “pay to graduate” Saturday school program. It is possible, and if you go this route your high school diploma will look exactly like someone who took advantage of every opportunity to excel provided to them by their school.

Honestly, it is important to give yourself that challenge. Don’t only take CP or basic classes if you know that you are capable of more. Not every student is going to be able to handle AP or Dual but at least trying a more difficult path in a subject you feel confident in can be extremely rewarding. Math is my absolute worst subject. It has been an uphill battle every year for me just to get a high B in any math course. After hearing geometry wasn’t the easiest high school math class, I proceeded to struggle with the material and get out of the class with a low C.

I failed. I failed but I tried. Since 7th grade, I have been in advanced math classes despite struggling with the material. In English, on the other hand, I moved quickly from Honors from 8th grade to 10th before finally taking AP Language in 11th grade and AP Literature in 12th grade. English is my favorite subject but I am still not able to just breeze through these courses.

AP Language was a blast. My teacher, Mrs. Martin, introduced us to so many interesting concepts and helped us learn to put together these essays for the AP exam. I feel as if Language came naturally to me. I enjoy writing essays and articles about issues that matter to me, and argumentative essays are a pretty big part of the class. AP Literature was a different story. My teacher, Mrs. Revan, was amazing and was my English teacher for 10th grade as well. Literature was basically all of the parts of a typical English class I was worst at. It was challenging and 2nd semester ‘senioritis’ started to kick in.

I don’t regret taking AP Literature at all. It was a difficult class for me but I gained so much experience through that course. I learned the hustle that will come with college English courses. I participated, and won, a court case based around a short story we were reading. I came in late every day, in typical Dorman fashion, with a biscuit or a muffin or a coffee or a hot chocolate. I was struggling but it was a class that ultimately benefited me immensely. The morning of the AP Lang exam, Mrs. Martin treated us to a Chick-fil-A breakfast with orange juice. The morning of the AP Lit exam, Mrs. Revan treated us to Chick-fil-A breakfast with iced coffee. Both of my AP English were amazing and helped made difficult courses the perfect balance between challenging and beneficial.

I recommend for everyone, if they are eligible, to try at least one AP course. It is a way to challenge yourself while also possible getting a college credit. If you take the course second semester, your class will be over after the AP exams meaning you will have a free block to take advantage of the last few weeks of school. I used this time to watch movies with a friend some days while other days I spent it working on photography assignments.

Try when it comes to academics. You may not be a valedictorian or anything like that but challenging courses will benefit your overall knowledge of a subject, your work ethic, and more.

Do More Than Just Your Normal School Day

Being a student at Dorman, my school offers a lot of options when it comes to clubs, sports, and other various extracurriculars.

I remember my very first extracurricular at Dorman was Bailey George’s Cartoon Club. It was a small and pretty much unofficial club where we viewed cartoons and various other obscure media. We would also occasionally discuss the cultural context or the production history of the things we would watch. This could range from an obscure parade film from the 60’s to banned cartoons that haven’t aged very well.

My next major extracurricular was joining the Cavalier Newspaper staff. I double-blocked newspaper my 10th grade year, ran the newspaper website, and took pictures at every home football game from 10th to 12th grade. I have so many great memories from newspaper. I remember walking into class the first day and seeing a wheelchair-bound kid with autism and wondering if I was in the right place or not. This prejudgment was awful. Over the course of that school year, I worked closely with this guy. I walked with him around school to get interviews for articles and to hand out our physical publication. In my 11th grade year, I got to see the school make his dream of making a ‘touchdown’ in Cavalier Stadium a reality. If I hadn’t participated in newspaper, I wouldn’t have had the chance to work with someone I would have never worked with otherwise.

I also met Haley Mainville through newspaper, who would give me rides to her student-led Bible study that included a bunch of different friends from different denominations who just honestly read and discussed the Bible.

Newspaper struggled to thrive in the large school that is Dorman. I was the last staff member remaining from that original group that took the class. The class stopped being offered my 11th grade year and we also stopped being able to print our magazines. The same fate soon befell the creative magazine, which I had also worked on. Mrs. Gallman and I did our best to make newspaper work but it just didn’t happen. I gained a lot from the experience and enjoyed producing a publication.

As a part of the newspaper staff, I also started getting more and more into photography. I took both video and photography classes under Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker is perhaps one of the most transparent and intelligent teachers I know. He taught me so much about both the technical and artistic sides of photography. For some football games during my senior year, he would also be on the sidelines and show me how to take better pictures in general. As a part of the photography program I also covered the Razzle Dazzle ball, a prom organized for the special education students.

(from left to right) Kate Perry, Cameron Smith, Daniel Aull, and myself. Taken by Austin Baker on the sidelines of a game.

One day Baker had asked me what I was going to do for a camera in college at the beginning of class. I told him I would make due with a recently acquired film camera although I was unsure if I was going to be able to afford developing the pictures. Towards the end of that block, he took out one of the first cameras he ever used himself, a Nikon D200, and let me know I would be able to borrow it until I can get my own equipment. I am glad that I was able to participate in the photography program and develop a relationship with Mr. Baker. Here in an excerpt of what Baker wrote in my yearbook:

“Let your art speak for itself and remember, everyone has stuff in their life that sucks, so you’ve just got to work with what you’ve got and go from there.”

Through participating in the video and photo programs, I met two of my best friends that had a huge impact on my senior year. These two are, Cameron Smith and John Wilson. Cameron Smith is a wildly talent, mostly self-taught photographer and videographer, who has a work ethic that I completely envy. John Wilson is am extremely funny, human-oriented person that is smart and caring. I will have the absolute privilege to go to college with John in the fall. I will let one of the videos that we all produced together speak for itself.

John Wilson is also the pioneer of the ‘club that shall not named’ – or film club if you would prefer to just name it anyway. This is/was a very cartoon club-esque club where we watch films that range from actual masterpieces to ‘so bad they’re good’ territory.

The last extracurricular to me mentioned has been the most overarching this year. Anyone who knows me has known how dedicated I have been to the Dorman Theatre Department this past year. In another article, I wrote about my time with the theatre department and what led me there so I can definitely keep this short. I decided to step of my comfort zone and try acting in one show and crewing another. By the end of my senior year, I participated in all 6 shows of the season and garnered enough hours to be a recognized as a member of the International Thespian Society. As a theatre kid, I gained a new understanding of Shakespearean plays that helped me in AP Literature when we studied The Tempest. We also later studied The Importance of Being Earnest, a play by Oscar Wilde.

my headshot for Dorman’s production of Rumpelstiltskin, my first show as an actor. Photo taken by Austin Baker.

I know this section has probably been the most ‘rambly’ thus far but I had a lot of stuff I wanted to cover. Like I talked about academics, I completely recommend taking advantage of what after school choices you have. I met so many people and got to work on so many projects through these extracurriculars. I will be able to apply knowledge I learned through theatre productions and football games to future projects.

(from left to right) Brandon Bruce, myself, and Daniel Aull on Senior Field Day. Picture by Austin Baker.

I Think This Is Where I Will End It

I hope everyone that reads this, whether they be a student or a parent or an educator, will be able to gain something from my experience.

I feel like I have grown in a positive way throughout high school due to the things I chose to invest my time into. Graduating high school and being accepted into college didn’t always seem like a reality. Neither of my parents graduated. That means neither of them went to college. College was something that terrified me for the longest time because I didn’t know where to start. I had no idea how to apply to college and I wasn’t really able to get help from my parents when it came to that. I don’t blame them at all, it is just a level of difficulty that made the whole process more anxiety-inducing for me.

It would have been so easy for me to just not get through high school and not go any further. I am proud of the things I accomplished this year and the growth I experienced this year. This fall I will begin attending Spartanburg Methodist College. I already know 3 people on campus – John Wilson, someone who worked on various theatre productions with me, and someone from my AP Language class.

I will likely write another essay in this format when I get through my first year/semester of college. That’s all for now, thanks to all that have supported me up to this point.

one of my cap and gown pictures taken by Austin Baker

About the Author

A conservative Junior at Dorman High School. A member of the school newspaper who dabbles in poetry, photography, and has a passion for American history.

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