This post is by Samantha Funk, a senior at Harborside Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The College March is a new tradition in which high school seniors march together in early December to mail college applications as part of a school celebration. The tradition began in 2011 at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in NYC, with the support of NYC-Outward Bound Schools and Capital One Bank. This year seniors from 21 schools in 11 cities participated in the College March, promoting the ideal of college access for all and reminding every student who marches --and every younger student who watches--that when their with perseverance, resilience and hard work is met with academic preparation, school support and solid college matches, each of them can earn a degree. This piece is written by a senior at Harborside Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a cultural diverse urban EL Education secondary school. See a powerful brief video of the Harborside College March here.
Cheery faces. The holidays are right around the corner, and everyone’s excited. But along with my senior class at Harborside Academy, I am starting to recognize that this will be my last celebration of the winter holidays while living in this place, with this family, and with these friends. It’s just one of the many “lasts” that I will embark on this year, as high school graduation day looms less than six short months away.
All of this is bittersweet. I am mourning my childhood and feeling exhilarated about the boundless possibilities that lie ahead in my future. This past week, on Friday, December 11th, my classmates and I marched to the post office with our college applications in hand. The experience captured both my nostalgia and my hopes. The march commemorates the last three, almost four years, growing up and leaping ahead. But, this march is so much more than that. It is also a way to influence other students, express our gratitude to those who’ve helped us make it this far, and celebrate our passion and determination.
I was always told to establish a “backup plan” in case what I planned to do did not work out. Nevertheless, I applied to Beloit College, the number one school in the Midwest for the Theatre Arts program. This march is the beginning of my journey to becoming a playwright, director, and performer. Before coming to Harborside Academy, I never imagined I could chase my dream. I arrived as an anxious freshman from a middle school where I felt unsafe and invisible. But from the first days, teachers at Harborside told me I was capable and worthy enough to get into college if I practiced our habits of success: tenacity, leadership, cooperation, humor, respect, and integrity. It wasn’t just talk, either. We have a crew class everyday where we look at how the habits are demonstrated in our school work and in how we treat others. We created portfolios and prepared for passage presentations to show we are ready for college. In crew, we also researched colleges and wrote our admissions essays. In my college essay, I tried to combine my life knowledge, along with the events and ideas that have made a serious impact on me, so that the reviewers of my application could see me not only as a student, but also as a person who curiously and courageously tackles new experiences.
Participating in the college march also calls us to show admiration for our predecessors through an obligation to honor the work that those people put in to make us exceptional. It is our chance to give to younger children the same endowment that was given to us. When we get to the post office, we send letters out to the various people in our lives. We send them out to teachers here at Harborside Academy, or family members and dear friends that have changed us, made us better people, and touched our growing hearts.
The one very important person that I decided to thank was Mr. Haithcock, the founding principal of Harborside Academy. The culture Mr. Haithcock has created here at Harborside means that I am no longer just a number, or a face in a crowd of confused teenagers. I am a person, who feels safe and supported. I have learned again how to love learning and how to enjoy the people around me. If it weren’t for Mr. Haithcock’s work to create Harborside, I would not be the same person that I am today. In my letter, I thanked him for always being there for me, always making me smile when I was down, and for giving me so many opportunities--including writing this blog!
Marching beside my classmates today, I saw the friends, teachers, and school administrators cheering for my accomplishments. When we made it to the post office, my mother was cheering for me on the sidelines, even though she just had surgery just a few days before. I was surprised to find out that our parents wrote us letters too. My mom’s kind, loving, and heartbreaking words about letting me go when I leave for college made me cry. I felt sad, but also excited about this first step toward my adult life. As we seniors say our goodbyes to high school, and stand on our own two feet, the College March is the start of our legacy.
With this post, Learning Deeply will go on a holiday break. We will return in January with more explorations of deep learning. Happy holidays!
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