Thursday, June 5, 2003

Graduation

In spite of shiny new home, U-Hi seniors accomplished much

Kate Carpenter
University High School

To be the first graduating class of a brand-new high school sounds like an exciting distinction.

After all, the new high school buildings in the Central Valley School District were a long-awaited and much anticipated project, and to be the first group of students to call one of those buildings home was often pointed out as an advantage of being a member of the class of 2003 at University High School.

It turned out, though, that the new building was seldom thought of as home by members of this year's graduating class. Don't be mistaken: No senior complains about having bathrooms that work, state of the art computer labs, an incredible photography studio, or one of the best theaters in the state. But despite all of the technological improvements of the new schools, there was a great deal missing for the seniors who moved into those hallways. As much as the old University High School building was falling down around us, seniors who spent two-thirds of high school there still considered it home. I have heard classmates reminisce about Frisbee games in the old outdoor hallways or senior territory in the small cafeteria. Maybe it was just the familiarity of the old building that made us feel welcome. Whatever the reason, the seniors who spent their final year of high school in a brand-new building felt out of place -- a remnant of an old era who identified the old building with what it meant to be a Titan.

However, good things came out of the displacement of the class of 2003.

Without a building to define who the seniors were as a class, it became the impact the students made in the community that identified them as University High School seniors. This year's graduating Titans put their energy into accomplishing goals in order to make their senior year memorable. Angelina Bill, Nathan Fanning and Shawn Gilson, for example, organized a concentrated drive to change the mind of the school board and move graduation to the Arena.

Jill Burgard and Lindsey Paxton each received the Chase Youth Award, and Ben Zack was honored with the Mayor's Human Rights Award. Titan seniors served the community and worked cooperatively to demonstrate that it does not take a building to enable a class to reach its potential.

In the midst of this, the U-Hi class of 2003 also cemented a genuine camaraderie. We still have our petty disagreements, our cliques and our “popular” group. More than any other class that I have witnessed, though, ours appears to have a strong central bond, a sense that we are each individuals and we are each important to the make-up of the University High School senior class.

Our frustrations and sense of feeling out of place in the new building managed to increase the sense that it is friendships, and not circumstances or surroundings, that matter.

The University High School Class of 2003 is certainly a unique class.

It is not, however, the fact that we are the first class to graduate from the new high school that distinguishes us.

It is the fact that we are, and have given ourselves every right to be, proud to be Titan seniors no matter what building may have been erected around us.

After graduating from University High School, Kate Carpenter plans to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia and study journalism.

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