By Patton Park, '15
(Patton Park is a 2015 graduate and returned to Randolph to share her story with faculty and staff to inspire them as the school year begins.)
I am thrilled to be here to help you all start what will be an amazing school year. Sixty years of Randolph School is truly an accomplishment, and you all are owed a huge congratulations. Sixty years of Seeking Truth, Building Character, and Nurturing All.
As faculty, you are what makes this school so special. I am honored to be able to share a glimpse of my Randolph story, one that is filled with many struggles and lots of growth, and be able to give back in a small way to the school that has given me so much.
I have seen Randolph grow and blossom through the many years that I and my siblings have been here. I was here when K-12 was on one campus. I attended many Halloween carnivals. I witnessed the Pioneer Village, the building of the Garth campus, many faculty changes, and so much more. But the biggest growth I saw during my time here was, thankfully, through myself.
I’d like to start with my first day at Randolph. It began with several tears as my mom walked me in to Mrs. Sandy’s brightly decorated kindergarten classroom. I did not want to go. "How could I leave my mom for an entire day?", I remember thinking. I was also dressed in a knockoff brand uniform, because my real, Randolph-approved one had not come in yet. This was just a taste of how my days here would go.
I went through the sweet elementary school years, loving every minute of my time here. I was learning so much, making so many great friends, and connecting well with my teachers. From art with Mrs. Jones, to French with Ms. Below, and science with Mrs. Smith, Randolph was exceeding all expectations. The days that I had Young Voices and hand-chimes after school with Mrs. Hoppe were extra special. Williamsburg with Mrs. Wright was definitely a trip I will always remember. But times turned a bit dark as I entered middle school, including my black eyeliner.
I started struggling academically, socially, and even at home. I had little to no respect for my teachers, mentors, or even my parents. I was receiving demerits and infractions almost every week, it seemed, being asked to leave class and even eat lunch alone. I would talk over my teachers, laugh uncontrollably, use my cell phone, and my uniform skirts were way too short. There came a point in middle school when I was reassigned different classes so I would not be around my group of friends that I was trying so hard to “impress." My grades were terrible. I was a smart girl, but school did not come easy to me. I was not applying myself in the way I should have and the way Randolph expected, because I truly did not care. Why was I acting this way? This was not the young lady my parents were raising me to be, and I was not representing Randolph well. It was a privilege to attend such a wonderful school. I was young, naive, and seeking attention.
"She was more than just a homeroom teacher. She wanted to see me succeed and truly believed in me."
But things started to turn around when my homeroom teacher 7th grade year was Mrs. Sharma. Mrs. Sharma had a reputation of being strict with her students. This was someone I did not particularly want for homeroom. She was tough on me when I needed a wake-up call. We had a few meetings one-on-one, and the homeroom teacher that I was dreading turned into my biggest blessing. She was not afraid to call me out in front of the class, to ask me to be quiet, or put my phone away. She was tough enough to get through to me, which prepared me for 8th grade, but in such a nurturing way. Mrs. Sharma played a big role in my middle school career. She was more than just a homeroom teacher. She wanted to see me succeed and truly believed in me, despite my bad behavior and low grades. It is teachers like her that make the most impact on students, the ones who aren’t afraid to show us some tough love.
Then, the freedom we received in high school was just the right amount. My advisory group, led by Ms. Andrada, felt like a family. We thoroughly enjoyed our meetings, not just for the snacks. My Interim trip to France sophomore year was unforgettable. I had been studying the language my entire Randolph career and was anxious to travel. I had never been that far away from home. In no time, Dr. Green made us all feel at home. Being able to communicate with the people of France showed me how much I truly had learned in my classes. Senior year Interim was just as incredible. Mr. Townsend led a group of students to Germany and The Netherlands. Lucky for him, two of those students were Parks. My brother Sumter was a sophomore at the time, and he graduated as a lifer in 2017. This trip was just what we needed to bond before I went off to school.
"Without expecting so much out of us as Randolph students, I would definitely not be where I am today."
When I was applying for college, I wondered how I would be accepted anywhere. I was not a straight-A student, nor anywhere close to that. I was not super involved with clubs or sports, but I had Randolph on my side. I knew I wanted to stay close to home, being the homebody I am, but I wasn’t sure how many options I had. Mr. Freeman and I discussed my grades, which drastically improved by my junior year. He led me through every step of the college application process and was able to calm all of my nerves. I applied to two schools: Birmingham Southern College and Samford University. During my tours, just dropping the name Randolph School was like having the golden ticket. I was awarded scholarships to both schools and truly began to appreciate what Randolph had set up for me.
So the C student who was just trying to get through middle school graduated from college in 3.5 years with a degree in business management. I was able to overload my semesters and take classes every summer due to the study skills Randolph had instilled in me.
With all of this being said, I commend Randolph faculty for “Holding Standards High." Without expecting so much out of us as Randolph students, I would definitely not be where I am today. Thank you to all of my teachers who pushed, encouraged, and never gave up on me. You have truly touched my life. I will always consider Randolph to be my second family. Now, I encourage you all to not give up on the students who are struggling in any way. Those are the ones who obviously need you the most. Give them the strength and courage they need by hassling them with emails, stopping them in the hallways, and making it known you want them to succeed, just as you did for me. This includes my little sister, who is a rising freshman. But please, go easy on her. Well, maybe not too easy! It is such a great feeling to be proud of yourself, and that is how every student should and will feel when they leave this magnificent place.
The Park Family is OneRandolph and will be for generations to come. I hope you all have a wonderful school year and enjoy every minute, even the hard ones. Thank you for your time.