What have we learned?

A look back at high school

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What have we learned?

Marissa De Santiago, upper left hand corner, with the South Mountain High School Academic Decathlon team, after a game of Super Quiz.

Marissa De Santiago, upper left hand corner, with the South Mountain High School Academic Decathlon team, after a game of Super Quiz.

Marissa De Santiago, upper left hand corner, with the South Mountain High School Academic Decathlon team, after a game of Super Quiz.

Marissa De Santiago, upper left hand corner, with the South Mountain High School Academic Decathlon team, after a game of Super Quiz.

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It started the summer after eighth grade.

The notion of high school, the place all my relatives had acclaimed throughout the entirety of my adolescence would facilitate “the best four years of my life”, was finally here. However, unlike my family, who all spoke fondly of their big friend groups, relationships, and rebellious teenage outbursts, I was extremely shy and awkward, had never dated anyone, and planned to go to every class promptly (once I found out where said classes were, of course).

The summer break before freshman year was filled with me frantically searching Youtube for every possible video that could prepare me for high school. However, no matter how many advice videos I watched or teenagers told me that everything would be okay through a screen, I still felt a pit in my stomach. The anxiety was determined and nothing could lessen the ache and worry it caused.

For a year I stressed about extensively, I don’t remember that much about freshman year. I recall being very attentive during orientation because I was extremely worried I would get lost. I had straightened my hair, a feat I hardly endured, and thought a girl in my group looked, for a lack of a better word, cool. I remember going to pick up my first ID, walking through the front office doors and hating what I was wearing. We went to Sonic’s after; my ID picture wasn’t as bad as it could have been (my way of saying something went well).

I remember walking in the first day and seeing administration (namely Ms. Gutierrez) pointing freshmen in the right direction. Advisory, a study hall period, was first. I began to walk to my class when a boy from my elementary school, a boy who had never talked to me, Brian, approached me and made small talk. I didn’t want to talk to him, as I said, we were not friends, but I remember thinking this is what happens: you cling onto someone, any familiar face will do. I awkwardly talked to him and we went our separate ways. I wouldn’t say another word to him for the rest of my high school career.

In Advisory, we did some kind of ice breaker.

I didn’t get lost, I just had to ask the band teacher were my communications survey class was. “Just follow the hallway.”

It was the end of the first day; I remember it being hot. It is Arizona. I was wearing pants, dark blue pants at that, because I was too insecure of the paleness of my not perfectly slender and/or athletic legs to wear shorts. I was also too nervous I would be dress coded and wanted to avoid any problems at any cost.

I am sure I could talk forever about freshman year if I tried. It included the few friends I did have, and still didn’t feel like I completely belonged with, meeting new people and inviting them to hang out with us during lunch. It was me never doing the same. It was me having a pristine health notebook, doodling in a notebook during Advisory with my headphones in and not looking up for the whole period, peanuts and candy corn eaten together to resemble Payday in algebra, and Biology being my only sanity. It was a radio show with my best friend and a movie in which ketchup was used as fake blood.

My Advisory teacher, a period I would never really enjoy, was always late to hand us the papers the school intended us to have in a timely fashion. He continued this trend when it came to passing out the transcripts that listed our ranks.

Everyone had theirs. No one was ranked one yet. People were coming close though; it was just a matter of time. Everyday I would come to school and wait for someone to tell me who number one was.

It was me.

I didn’t really have anyone to tell though. I kept it in and told my family when I got home.

On the last day, I remember turning in a book into the bookstore, presumably my Biology book, though I don’t recall. A year done. All the loose strings tied up in that one transaction. Finality.

How I wish I could go back. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything. I just want to go back.

Now, I am posting this story on a website for a newspaper class that will soon cease to exist as a senior. I could talk on and on and on about high school. My sophomore year was my favorite year because I met many of the people who are still in my life and truly started to come out of my shell due to classes like Academic Decathlon and print journalism. Junior year was a blur, and while I do have good memories associated with that year, it is largely unnoteworthy in my mind.

Senior year was unlike any other year. I saw my life plan change before my eyes, fell into several episodes of depression, and procrastinated vastly (something I had never really done before). I earned salutatorian for my academic efforts. I attended prom, which I never planned to do. I will be attending Arizona State University on the Tempe campus, majoring in English in the fall

It is my last day.

In four days, I will be a graduate of South Mountain High School.

In retrospect, I have learned that high school is about growing into who you are. High school is a group of fourteen to fifteen year olds, who are mostly shy and are insecure about themselves, growing up and, three to four year laters, leaving as seventeen year olds or older who have become confident in their thoughts, beliefs, and just themselves in general. High school is truly about finding yourself and, though if you had told freshman year Marissa this she never would have believed it, realizing that everything will be okay.


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