By Isaac Mervis
This article hasn’t been an easy one to write. I’m ashamed to admit that I even missed the first deadline. I’ll chalk it up partly to procrastination and partly to the difficulty of the subject. I’ve been asked to sum up what UHS is all about, as well as my experiences here. It’s such a difficult task, primarily because the school has been such a huge part of my life for the past four years, but also because of how much it has benefited me and everyone within its walls. As I look back over this article I still don’t feel like I’ve truly done it justice; but here it goes.
I can remember exactly where I was when I made my decision. I was sitting at our rented house’s kitchen table with my parents, wanting to bash my head through it just so I wouldn’t have to pick a school. Pros and cons lists were no help, and I had friends going each direction, telling me to follow them. I was lost. As we went over the nitty gritty details of each school, my mom told me to think back to my shadow visits and see if anything stuck out. I tried to envision myself at each school, but everytime I closed my eyes I saw myself walking through Fairbanks Hall. The lockers, and many students, towered over me, but the crossroads was only a conjunction of friendly faces. The light beaming through the overpowering windows was warm and welcoming. To top it all off, I couldn’t get over the fact that people had actually tried to get to know me. Whether it was being interviewed by a faculty member or getting embarrassed at morning meeting, they wanted to know who I was. I was somebody, and I liked that.
I went to UHS looking for a place to spend my next four years and be friendly and familiar with my peers and teachers, but what I discovered was much more.
From the second I walked into the Fairbanks, I found a place where I walked hand in hand with video game designers, playwrights, social activists, and basketball players.
It’s a place where you can get Subway for lunch and still feel like you made the wrong decision. A place where everybody in the student body comes together in the morning to figure out who has a game that day and who has the best costume on Halloween. Where people can go off in different directions every weekend, and still come together under one roof, dancing their butts off at prom on a dancefloor that is way too small. (I’m sorry if you were one of the four people I elbowed when “Shut Up and Dance” came on.)
It’s a place where news can come slow, but travel like wildfire. A place where if you fart loudly in your third period Biology class, you can bet people will be reminding you about it in fifth period English. A place where you can never truly run away from your problems, because you’re stuck brushing shoulders with them every day on the way to Spanish class. A place that teaches you when to decide its better to let go, to forgive and forget, and a place that teaches you when to stand up and fight for what you believe in.
In my four years UHS, it feels like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen people create award-winning works of art, put on jaw-dropping violin performances, give Model UN speeches that make you wish you lived in North Korea, and score game-winning free kicks as the clock runs out. I’ve witnessed a girl somehow organize six erratic teenage boys into an all-male beauty pageant to raise money for Riley Children’s Hospital. Watched another girl turn a pile of jumbled books into a fully functioning library. I’ve seen a shy girl with a love for journalism build a successful online news publication from the ground up. I’ve seen people be loved, hurt, inspired, and crushed all in the same day. But that’s any high school, really.
It’s such a funny place we’re all in. We’re stuck somewhere in between being kids and adults. We laugh at jokes about butts and argue over politics. It seems like a weird social experiment, putting together a bunch of people who aren’t quite sure of themselves yet, giving them food and water, and seeing what madness ensues. You’re sure to find gossip and rumors and petty fights, but you also find a lot of growth. As we’re finally taking these last steps to adulthood, you can look back to the person you were when you first walked through the Fairbanks door, and have trouble even recognizing yourself. We’ve been roughed up, knocked down, and helped back up, time and time again. But we always come away better for it, and a great part of that has been because of what University has given to us.
UHS gives you freedom. It wants to help you find out where you’re going and help you get on your way. It tells you that you’re here for a reason, and that is because you have something to contribute to make the school better for everyone. University High School will celebrate your talents and encourage your ambitions. It will acknowledge your interests, be it composing, engineering, or even ghost hunting, and demand that you go explore it. Whether it’s an outdoor classroom, a butterfly garden, or even a water bottle refiller- if you have an idea, UHS will give you whatever you need to put it into action. Most importantly, it provides a comfortable place to learn and grow without all of the social stigmas that most high schools have. The school gives you the confidence to do what you want, with the knowledge that if you mess up, you have great friends and teachers who will cushion your fall. They want you to take risks, push the envelope, and do something that’s never been done before.
With a setting like this and the students that UHS attracts, the result is nothing less than spectacular.
In these past four years alone, I’ve seen myself grow from a shy, easily intimidated person into someone with the the confidence and desire to make a difference, and I can only credit UHS. I have had the opportunity to sit back and follow the orders of some pretty incredible leaders, and even have had the chance to lead myself. The school as a whole has encouraged me to seek out new interests, innovate, and be whoever I want to be. It has inspired me to question things that I don’t agree with, and given me the tools to go out and change them. I’ve made some jokes, written an article or two, played a few innings, worked hard, played hard, been knocked down, and catapulted up again. I’ve watched, listened, learned, been inspired and discouraged. What I think is most important is that I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with some of the most creative, intelligent, and talented students and faculty that I’ve ever met.
What is so great about University High School is that, like us, it still doesn’t really know what it is yet. The school is changing every day, constantly implementing new classes, programs, and traditions. Just this year we’ve seen the first Freshman Orientation, Year of Service, Black and White Ball, Ulympics, and Squad 3’s National College Signing Day. Both the administration and students are constantly trying out new things to make the school a better place. High school is a time to start discovering who you truly are. Each day, we get to go to a school and do that, and at the same time, come together to build something that is bigger than all of us. The kids are the heart and soul of the school, and UHS allows them to have a great impact on its direction. We have been able to grow with the school, each leaving a handprint on the other that can never be removed.
Writing this article can only mean that it’s all going to end soon, which is a scary thought. The cycle is restarting, and I’m going to college next fall. While I’m excited to continue down this path, I can’t say I’m not nervous or sad to be leaving. University is the only school I’ve known for the last four years. And while I didn’t always realize it, University High School is truly a special place. I’m not sure where else I’ll be able to find such a close-knit community that cares for each other the way that we do here. Sure, you may not love everybody in your grade. But if something happens and you’re upset in the hallways, people are there to make sure you’re okay. If a relative passes away, half of the student body will be there at the funeral and support you in any way they can. If you have a big game, there will be friends and faculty there making sure everybody knows who they are there for. I’m confident that the academic rigor of UHS has prepared me for the next step in my academic career, confident that the social experiment that is high school has prepared me for whatever life chooses to throw my way, and I’m confident that as we pass torch on to the next wave of seniors, they will keep the flame burning bright.
When I first came to UHS, I wasn’t very fond of our mascot. I always thought “Trailblazers” was a pretty stupid name. After all, I grew up with the more traditional Eagles, Owls, and Panthers. But after giving it some thought, if Chuck Webster and a group of determined parents hadn’t blazed a new trail, who knows where we would be today. Our students come here, reap the benefits that the school has to offer, and use them to blaze their own trail wherever they find it. Our mascot is a vibrant representation of the heart and soul that run through the infrastructure of the school and everyone inside of it. I truly cannot think of a more fitting mascot, and I am so proud to call myself a Trailblazer.