By Claudia Kelley
Throughout the course of my academic career, my educational path has been tremendously nontraditional. From homeschooling to independent learning in a Montessori school, and from parochial school to public education, my unconventional educational transitions are the foundation for who I am as a human, a woman, and a member of society.
I began my religious education in sixth grade after an abrupt transfer from a Montessori school, making my middle school years uncomfortable but tolerable due in part to my developed ability to socially assimilate. I learned to behave like my upper-middle-class peers, even pretending to be Catholic, though I was raised in a non-religious, extremely liberal household.
Through the morals and ethics rooted in me from my upbringing, I developed strong ideals about freedoms and liberties, and as a stubborn person, my ideals are not easily compromised. In classes based upon the Catechism and subjectivity, I felt alienated as teachers made it increasingly obvious that my doubts and skepticism were not to be tolerated.
As I began the transition into adolescence, I entered another parochial environment: a Catholic high school. The rules were stricter, the administration was more patriarchal, and my former modes of assimilation were failing me. In an environment where someone with the wrong shoes is a social outcast and bullies can ruin lives, I took drastic measures to ensure social approval. I picketed a local Planned Parenthood on a school trip, and even became a cheerleader. Though I intrinsically knew that these desperate attempts were virtually pointless due to the overwhelming unhappiness I felt, I continued the facade to avoid social seclusion– something that private school had taught me existed as a fate worse than death.
Throughout my freshman year, however, I began to challenge the beliefs that I had been taught, and for the first time, I publicly stood up for my beliefs. The reaction from the school- including my peers, faculty, and administration- was less than desirable.
My principles frequently collided with those of the people around me; whether it was my opinions on slutshaming, abortion, or public policy, I was perpetually disappointing somebody with my world outlook. The incredibly adverse mentality in the environment rapidly sent me into depression, during which I lost interest in most things, including my academic future.
At the end of my sophomore year, I made the executive decision to do the best thing for myself and transferred to a large, urban public school. The high school, which I currently attend and love dearly, was only spoken of in hushed rumors among the private school elite, and I was provided with an entirely inaccurate perception of public education (gang violence, excessive drug use, etc.).
Though I had initial reservations, I have never been one to step down from a challenge. I made some mistakes and stumbled frequently; my experiences with public education have changed and improved my life vastly. I learned to become my own person without relying upon the judgment and systematically constructed standards of worth that I had previously faced. I had the opportunity to discover my talents and passions. These epiphanies occurred due to the beautiful array of diversity throughout the school. Instead of identical plaid skirts and beliefs, I experience people from all religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
I have learned that everybody has a story and holds incomparable value. I have learned that people are meant to work together to better each other and the global community, and that one’s worth should be judged not upon their outward appearance or materialistic status, but on the abilities, qualities, and love they offer to the world.
Claudia Kelley is a senior at Eastern High School. She plans to attend college next year and study finance/law. Claudia enjoys writing, reading, Cadbury Eggs, and lizards.
This was printed in the February 9, 2014 – February 22, 2014 edition.