What four years of high school taught me

Grayce Lillpop, Staff Writer

Coming into high school, a place where all the cool, big kids went was terrifying despite what I learned in books and movies. As any 8th grader having to switch from one school to the next, it was a pretty big deal. You are going to learn how to drive in high school, you are going to learn how to do trigonometry in high school and experience many other “firsts” in high school. But nobody really talks about what experiencing all these wonderful and not so wonderful things has taught them as an individual in society and a student in college. So I am here to break that cycle.

Starting my very last round of finals at Jacksonville High School seems like High School Musical 3 but with less musical numbers and more stress. All the things you hear about how it’s the “best four years of your life” are very true, but they are almost as influential as they are fun. High school has taught me to always say yes to opportunities that come my way. I never would’ve been vice president of the Interact club, chief editor of the yearbook club or even the outstanding art student if I didn’t put myself out there and show JHS what I had to offer.

I learned quickly that with that ambition comes individualism. You can say yes to opportunities all you want but bringing what YOU have to the table is much more interesting and will be sure to leave fellow classmates and faculty knowing exactly who you are and your impact on the school. Being the art student of the year means I literally leave my mark, a mural, up on a wall of the school, but leaving your mark doesn’t always have to be taken literally. Your interactions, your attitude and your eagerness to learn are all things that make others notice you; trust me, they do. That’s another thing that being a part of the “high school experience” has taught me personally. The way you treat others DOES matter. Since I have been at JHS for four years, I’ve seen my fair share of bullies and rude teenagers who take pride in their ego and are of course leaving a mark on the school but not a good one worth recognition. Be someone who is remembered for standing up, speaking out and showing the world that they are eager to become the best versions of themselves.

Along with being a role model, I also learned that surrounding yourself with gracious, loving people who want to see you succeed and push you when the going gets tough is probably the most important. These people will be there through it all and will always want to see the best version of you. I’m so thankful that the people I surround myself with daily are encouraging and want to lift me up and not tear me down even when times get hard. Beginning the end of the year “senior stuff” such as senior trip, Love Feast and graduation just to name a few, are when these people are needed most but are also the hardest to be around. As you close up your final chapters on the place you spent the last four years of your life, you will want to be with these wonderful people you call your friends but then realize they too will be a part of that closing chapter when you put on that gown and walk across the stage. Before this gets too sappy, I’ll leave you with this. High school is truly a wonderful place to learn, grow and connect in ways you never thought possible no matter how much you’ll hate the early mornings and the countless coffee runs during finals week. You’ll learn which friends and teachers really invested in you and wanted to see you achieve great things and even those who don’t make the reward that much more rewarding. To all those seniors struggling with “senioritis” right now, hear me out. Enjoy the last couple weeks we have left and spend quality time with the people you love because in the blink of an eye, you’ll be moving on to far greater things with the knowledge that without them it wouldn’t have been possible.

Finish strong and cherish it all.