Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with student volunteers from other schools at an event on campus. While stuffing gift bags in the lounge, one of the volunteers glanced at the deans’ offices.
“My school doesn’t look like this,” she murmured.
As we made our way upstairs to open the math classrooms, her eyes fell upon the robotics workspace.
“This school is so fancy,” she said.
Within our community, we often fail to realize how lucky we are to attend this school. We are fortunate to have the resources that are unavailable to many. Our Kutler Center funds seven students each year to build connections with foreign cultures. Our athletic department imported pool components from Italy to provide the optimal aquatic performance. Our art classrooms are always filled with canvases and tubes of paint for aspiring artists.
Yet, the character of our community lies beyond the impressive facilities and projects. We have teachers willing to arrive well before 7:00 a.m. to help students, deans that guide us through challenges, teams dedicated to improving the inclusivity of our environment and groups that help students explore niche interests. There is not much more, if anything, that we could hope for in an academic environment. It is important to remember that.
Stuck in our daily routines, it is easy to forget everything we have access to and complain about the extra hour of homework. But completing a few extra assignments is just a small price to pay for the opportunities we receive.
While the volunteer pointed out one common perspective regarding our school, another still persists. To students and parents outside of the community or group of private schools in the Los Angeles area, our students are often seen as pretentious, unappreciative or even spoiled.
There is no doubt that we are extremely privileged, and it is essential that we recognize this. However, the school’s assets hardly define us as a whole. Anybody within the community would agree that our school is not only rigorous regarding academics and extracurriculars, but also an encouraging environment where we are free to discover and explore our interests alongside our peers.
What continues to feed the stigma of the school is our behavior both on and off campus. Though it may not be possible to completely erase our negative reputation established long ago, we can certainly reduce it. In school, we must hold ourselves accountable for our own actions. It is as easy as throwing away trash on the quad or completing assignments. Outside of school, similar standards apply. Ultimately, we should strive to implement the skills the school has taught us, both technical and moral.
Though I am only halfway through junior year, I am grateful to attend this school. Despite frequent, nearly sleepless nights and stressful testing weeks, I am lucky to interact with motivated peers and to be guided by unparalleled teachers. But, there are still improvements to be made regarding our reputation. We must not focus on the upscale facilities and material aspects of our campus. Rather, we must take advantage of all the resources the school has to offer and utilize the skills we have acquired beyond the classroom. It is my hope that, in the future, we are recognized for our values and opportunities rather than dismissed as an elite academic institution.