My daughter Katherine just got into a high school for the arts this past week. It was a reason to celebrate and be happy. Sixty people from across the state had applied with only 15 chosen to enter the visual arts program. She was one of those select few. This was the school that she wanted to go to because she thought that it would help become an animator . Her art mean so much to her that her mom, Marie, and I knew was an opportunity that Katherine had to try and get in. We want the best for her and Katherine staying in this area for high school was not it. Marie and I don’t come from privileged backgrounds but were both able to go to private high schools and receive quality educations because our families were willing to sacrifice and put in the effort to get for us the opportunities to do better. While this new school for Katherine is a public charter school it will require for us to sacrifice time, money and effort. The school is the state capital so I’ll have to drive into town just about every day. We’ll work it out.
I do worry about my daughter and how this new setting is going to be for her. 240 students from around the state . Some living close by and other leaving in the dorms. I saw some of the families at the Open House a few months ago and many of them were tax brackets way above us. I don’t want my daughter looked down on because her family lives in a double-wide trailer on an Native American reservation. She’ll survive because I know once she shows how talented she is , nothing else will matter.
I know for her it’s going to be strange. New people , new place, new everything. I try to tell her that I know what she is going through because I had to get used to new people, new place, new everything. I figured I would say something about when I had to get used to new place.
It was 1993 and I grew up in a small town in California. I was happy for the most part growing up. I played baseball and had an okay time in school. In middle school I was part of the G.A.T.E. (Gifted and Talented Education) program taking high school math and science classes. I had passed test some test that was giving to high school student so they graduate , while in the 7th grade. I was still getting 2.5 GPA mostly because I was doing enough to pass the class. I think my parents thought I could do better and a change was needed for me. I just wanted to do enough to pass , which is still a problem for me , yet my parents saw more in me.
They had talked to me about a boarding school in New Mexico that I might be interested in. I told them that would cool. I was starting a new high school if I stayed in California and I didn’t have the largest number of friends so I figured why not. I left California to spend the summer with my mom’s family on the Indian reservation she was from. Had fun with my cousins that summer and had forgotten about the boarding school. I was set to go back to California and start my freshman year.
The night before we were supposed to leave my parents ask me , ” Do you want to go that boarding school we talked about?”. I said that I was still interested , thinking that I would go my sophomore year. That’s when they told me that entrance exam was the next day early in the morning. We were going to have to get up and leave by 3:00 am to get the test. So that’s what we did. Got to the school and took the test. Finished the test and drove back to California.
I figured I wouldn’t get into the school and prepared to go the local high school. I still had four weeks until that school started. Then we got a letter saying that I had been accepted to the boarding school and that school started in one week. So we had to run around and start shopping for new school clothes, a footlocker to put my stuff in, a laundry bag, bathroom room supplies (shampoo, soap, towels, wash rags…..) and school supplies. We got it done and made the trip to New Mexico. The whole way there I listened to the two tapes that I had for my walkman, Siamese Dream-Smashing Pumpkins , and Freaky Styley– Red Hot Chili Peppers.
We get to what is my new school along with all the other students. The school was a 7th thru 12th grade Co-Ed Catholic school where some lived in town and the rest lived in the dorms. It was crazy that day as I took my stuff to my living space for the next year. I was in the 9th grade dorm room that consisted of a large room divided by a 5ft wall in the middle with about 16 beds on either side of the wall for a total of 32 person capacity. The bed had wooden drawers underneath them and were attached to the wooden dresser that had a few more drawers and a little closet to store your laundry and such.
Across from the dorm room was the bathroom.It was a few urinals and a line of stall on one wall and a line of sinks and mirror on the other that was broken up in the middle by the entrance to the showers. It was made to serve the 50 odd boys in the downstairs dorms. The shower was the most shocking thing to some students. It wasn’t a series of stalls but was a large shower room that had a large shower in the middle of the room with 4 shower heads on opposite sides of the shower pipe.
here are the dorm beds
this is a photo of the shower
As I settled in that first day in the dorms many thoughts came into my mind. Was I going to make friends here? Can I really handle being away from my family (my brother did live an hour away but it felt so much further away)? Would they think my music was weird? I didn’t know anyone at this new school and some of these people came to boarding school with siblings, cousins and friends.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t the only one going through this. A lot of the guys were like me , hundreds of miles away from home and with no one they knew there at the school. The idea of getting away from your parents at 13 years old is exciting then the reality set in that you truly have start being more independent. It’s scary. Most kids are 18 and going off to college when they leave the house and here I was about to start a new adventure along with a lot of guys here. It would be a four year adventure where I would meet people from all over the place. I would get to know a whole new city. See things I would have never saw if I stayed in small town California. Made friends that I still talk to now. I had my first foray in the world of dating , it didn’t end well. I learned more about who I was.
While my Katharine isn’t going to boarding at the new school I hope she realizes that this new school is a way for her to meet people that she wouldn’t have ever met if she stayed at the local school. She is an artist and being around artist and sharing ideas in a language I don’t understand will be so worth the intial nervousness of this new school. I hope she takes advantage of the oppurtunity.