The school year was drawing to a close and new nervous energy filled the halls, reflecting the anticipation felt only as a milestone year closes. I was part of an eighth-grade class about to embark into the uncharted world of high school and that impending adventure had everyone excited: everyone except me.
Chesterfield County had just completed Matoaca High School. This new facility was to be the County’s premier high school. It was the only school issuing laptops to students and using technology based teaching. Everyone wanted to go there and I was districted for the school but I wanted to follow my friends to Bird High School. I felt abused by the system that told me my friends and I would have to part ways and so I resolved not to allow this injustice to prevail. At the time, I had no idea that this situation would show me what a profound impact one decision can have on a person’s life.
Switching to a school outside your district is difficult, especially when that school is touted as “best in the county”. The standard options, waiver or relocating, were not possible for me because I had no legitimate need for either. Luckily, a third opportunity came to my attention. Chesterfield County high schools have “specialty centers”, each focusing on a particular career field. Initially, none of the centers interested me since I was focused on a career teaching history. However, Bird hosted the Pre-engineering Specialty Center. Although I was sure that I wanted to be a history major in college, I reasoned that pre-engineering would be a good background for any career and entrance to the Pre-engineering Program would let me follow friends to high school. My course was clear. I applied, tested, and interviewed for acceptance into the Bird Pre-engineering Program and waited.
Finally, it arrived! The long awaited letter was here. I excitedly opened the envelope and removed its precious cargo. Quickly scanning the letter, I zeroed in on the words I was looking for. I was in! I would be a student at Bird High School. I could now look to the coming school year with excitement rather than trepidation.
It wasn’t until my senior year that I realized the importance of this decision. By this time my eight grade year was just a hazy memory, but as I filled out applications for four different engineering schools I realized how enrollment in the Pre-engineering Center had affected me. Prior to high school I knew I wanted to be a history major. I loved history and could not think of anything I would rather do than study it in college. My time in the Pre-engineering Center showed me that I enjoyed engineering even more than history. It was this experience alone that caused me to apply to college as an engineering major rather than for history. At the age of thirteen I totally changed what my future career would be and reshaped the next forty years of my life simply by making that one decision to follow my friends to a different high school.
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