As I approached my graduation from grade school, I was absolutely certain of where I was heading for my high school education. Coming from a small, isolated, and narrow-minded school, I was swayed by the opinions of my friends and teachers. I had attended a private, Catholic school since I was four years old, and I had become quite accustomed to this system. At the time, the choice was simple; if I wanted to succeed, I must attend a private school, one that instilled the rigorous religious and academic curriculum not offered by the “inferior” public schools. Looking back on my previous stance, I realize how foolish I had been.
As my final year of grade school slowly passed, I naturally began the high school search process. Being thoroughly convinced that private schools were the only way to go, I had narrowed down my choices to two schools: Benet and Fenwick. Both of these schools were private, Catholic institutions. While preparing for the Benet entrance exam, I spent countless hours under my bright bedroom lights, studying and memorizing the essential material. Three weeks after testing, the scores were sent to my house, and I was ecstatic upon seeing that I had passed the exam with flying colors. I remember running into the house with an armful of mail shouting, “Mom, I am going to be a Redwing next year!” However, my mom, with her far-sightedness, told me not to burn all of my bridges before making an educated decision. She set up a shadow day for me at the local public high school, Hinsdale South. This shocked me, and I asked her whether or not she was joking. Luckily she was not.
Before entering the Hinsdale South grounds, I had already convinced myself that I was wasting my time. After sitting in on my first class, my opinion remained unchanged. Then, almost magically, a light turned on, and everything did a complete 180. The “boring” teacher now seemed interesting, and the “annoying” students now were entertaining and intriguing. To this day, I am still unsure what caused this sudden change in thought, but I am certainly not complaining about it. My fondness for Hinsdale South grew as the day progressed; I smelled the pleasant aroma of the cafeteria, stared in awe at the stunning black and gold lettermen’s jackets, and listened in on the conversations of the diverse, multilingual student body. Six hours later, my tour of the school had ended, but my memories of it had certainly not faded. Before going to sleep that night, I knew that this school was the perfect fit for me. How had I never noticed this wonderful school, this opportunity-rich institution that was no less than three miles from my home? Why had I listened to the naysayers of public education? Why had I been so biased?
Three years later, I am still a student at my public high school. I have thoroughly enjoyed all facets of my high school life, from the sports to the clubs to the classroom. Just yesterday, I took the ACT at our rival school, Hinsdale Central. Just for fun, I asked myself, “Would I have done better on this exam if I attended a private school instead?” My answer obviously was a resounding “no.” As I prepare to make the highly anticipated transition from high school to college, I know that I will do so with a much more open mind, applying the lessons I learned from my previous school transition. I believe in public education, and more importantly, I believe in making my own decisions.
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