I recently read an article about my high school. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and little did I know at the time, that Chicago area public schools are some of the best in the nation. There are roughly 680 high schools in Illinois and the top 86 schools were ranked, my high school made the list at #80. The rest of the schools in the state were simply mentioned along side with their stats, many not favorable. The stats associated with my high school have changed over the years, but that only makes the ranking even more impressive. AP courses are offered and roughly 28% enrollment is achieved. There is a student body of 52% male, and 48% female, and astonishing to me, of the student’s total enrollment is 62% minority.
If I recall growing up, I do not remember there being such a large number of minority students, but then I have to admit that my high school was somewhat unique. I do not believe we had a huge discrepancy in minority students, and as a whole, I do not recall ever having any racial discrimination or divide in our school. Sure we had fights among students and arguments that resulted in detention, but I do not really recall having a racial divide, or even a cultural divide. And we had it all: Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, straight, gay, bi-sexual, pregnant teens, special education, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, jocks, nerds, introverts, substance users, and many other classifications. We had grief of suicide, rebellion when told we could not have our yearly bonfire, pep-rallies, football and basketball games, and prom on the Star of Chicago riverboat.
High school was one of my favorite times in life. I think I was one of the only seniors that did not want to graduate. Part of that bubble was the ease in which I lived as I look back on a life where my greatest worry was asking my parents if I could go to the movies with my boyfriend, attend a party where I knew alcohol would be present, or making my honor roll grades. I have fond memories because in my school we had a camaraderie that stretched over boundaries and borders that exist and are emphasized in today’s world. This is not to say that some bullying or harassment did not occur because of differences, or life choices, but not at the extent I see in life today.
I do not feel our lives were dictated by the color of our skin, the God we served, or the extra-curricular activities we engaged in (good or bad). We were all on the same page finding our place in life, getting through the awkward teenaged years, and battling our parents for independence. We did not have the media inflating the fears and sorrows of bullying, and glorifying the reprehensible acts of teens beating down other teens. We had a sense of pride in ourselves, and others.
High school shapes who we are. It happens in those precious four years to determine how we want to proceed in life. It is when we truly start making decisions for ourselves, and facing the consequences of those choices. It is when our parents truly start to let us go. We come into our own, and find our path. And how do I know we all did this together? Because after 25 years I am still friends with my school mates – a lot of them. Yes, social media has kept us close, but close we all remain – and I know that I can call on anyone of those friends for anything and without hesitation they would step up and be there for me. Without that initial foundation we never would have been able to achieve this with each other. In that spirit I proudly say, GO BISON!