Our school did a production of The Wizard of Oz last spring. At the end of the play, Sarah Whelden, I mean Dorothy, speaks about the whole adventure she experienced on her trip to Oz and what she was truly looking for.
She tells her friends and family, “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Dorothy’s feelings of understanding, gratitude, and appreciating what she has are exactly what I’m here to talk about.
I haven't always been a Raider; this may be true for some of you as well. I once was a Huntsville Panther. But after my freshman year, my parents and I decided it was time for a change. I made the switch to Randolph, and I believe it is one of the best choices I’ve made.
I haven't always been a Raider
While I’m very happy I joined the Randolph community, there are things I truly miss about Huntsville High. School pride was all around you. “Go Big Red” and “Beat Grissom” were phrases that brought many people from different backgrounds together. I enjoyed being proud of my team in the crowded, loud, and sweaty stands on Friday nights, and sporting red and blue gear of my own on the basketball court. I remember the times in Middle School when our parents allowed me and my friends to go to a high school football game by ourselves. Although we were honestly scared of the high school students, we walked around with our shoulders up and heads held high because we were proud to be a part of the Panther spirit. I’m sure we looked embarrassing, being at a high school game just admiring the student section with our eyes wide open, but it was a rite of passage, and we were so excited to experience it independently. The many traditions at Huntsville High we had grown up hearing about only made us even more ready to be in high school and live it for ourselves.
While outside of the classroom, the atmosphere was full of excitement and spirit, class was full of motivation and determination. Many of the assignments were not given with words of encouragement or helpful tips. Instead, you had to find it within yourself to finish. They believed this would help us grow in independence and maturity. I needed self-motivation to get started and determination to finish because no one was going to do that for me. At times, I grew frustrated when looking for the motivation required, but I realized that the more I depended on myself to find it, the easier it became. Self-motivation was my driving force. It encouraged me to go out and achieve what I wanted and needed to get done, both in and out of the classroom. I didn’t have to look far if I needed some cheering up, though. There was excitement around every corner with the unexpected.
Once, a boy in my Career Prep class challenged me to a bet. He was a senior at the time. The boy knew that I was on the basketball team, and he was on a rec basketball team himself. He said that if he won a game of “Horse” in basketball, I had to go to prom with him. If I won, I also had to go to prom with him. Chances are, I’d be at prom with him. I was on the edge of my seat for sure. Although the outcome of that infamous game of “Horse” was never brought to light, it was an enjoyable day of class. There were instances of the unexpected daily. These are some of the reasons I do, indeed, miss my time there and am thankful for the time I was a part of the Huntsville Panthers.
Unexpected friendships, patience, and an open mind
During my time as a Raider, I have come to realize that there are unique qualities Randolph possesses that drew me here in the first place and are the reason I stay. I have many teachers and adults here who not only care about my learning, but about me as an individual. I have Ms. Rossuck to send me emails with websites that catch her eye or books to recommend to me, Mrs. Hillinck to talk and catch up with or even knit with, Coach Gaunt to make sure I’m eating healthily and getting enough sleep - (the answer is no, I am not, on either count!), Mrs. Kuhn to remind me of the rules of the library, and many others.
Randolph's size allows us to connect with people we wouldn’t have the ability to know in this way in a larger school. Advisory, group discussions, and small class sizes let us really get to know those around us, including people you would never consider knowing otherwise. Having this ability opens us up to diverse beliefs, unexpected friendships, patience and an open mind.
Learn how you learn best
You get a chance to know every person in your grade and maybe the whole school, whereas in other schools, you could be sitting at graduation next to complete strangers. I also have the ability to learn how I learn best. I have a friend who is a verbal learner, while I am a visual learner. In math class, we were struggling on the same problem. Our teacher came over to help us. For me, she used a whiteboard to write out the problem in order to help me understand. For my friend, she wrote out the problem, but explained it as she went so that she could also understand. We both got to the same answer, just using different methods of understanding. Randolph gives us the ability to explore how we learn and develop that skill to create the best learning experience for us as individuals. It isn’t very common to have the class sizes we do. I come from a background of classes averaging around 25-35 people. It never allowed for the learning and one-on-one attention from our teachers we have here.
A community of trust
Another huge reason I appreciate Randolph so much is the Honor Code. While some of you may have grown tired of it or take it for granted, for me it is important. The Honor Code creates in each of us a sense of responsibility. It also allows the teachers to hold us accountable. Because of the Honor Code we can do things like leave our backpacks lying around, take tests alone in a teachers’ lounge, trust each other, and so much more. This isn’t something you find everywhere else, and I think y’all don’t realize that.
Without a community of trust, you are unable to let your belongings out of sight for fear they might not be there when you return. It also is very common that many of the students receiving an A were not always worthy of the grade. It wasn’t very fair, and it was easy to get away with, but there was nothing you could do because of the lack of an Honor System.
Randolph also provides many opportunities for us to come together as a community. With events such as Days of Service, Pancake Supper, Raider Rally, Interim, K-Buddies, free sporting events and more, we are able to experience opportunities that are unique to this school and steeped in tradition.
Randolph allows us to grow together and prepare for life outside of the community we have grown up and been nurtured in. Some may assume it is like this everywhere, but I can assure you it’s not. That is why I’m up here telling you how I see it. Randolph is not all I know, and that is why it is so important to me.
I challenge you to reflect on your years at Randolph and think of how this school has molded you into the person you are today. I hope you never take Randolph for granted.