Sunday, May 23, 2004

Seniors look back, reflect on their start

By many roads, some rough, they made it, and they thirst for more

I entered school like any other child but with one difference: I was in a wheelchair. My elementary school experiences were full of frustration and misconceptions. Some of my teachers saw me as simply more work for them, while others did all they could do to help me. Their support helped me overcome my physical and emotional challenges.

Moving on to Conner Middle School, I was shocked to find out that my elementary school recommended that I be placed in a special education classroom. Thanks to very special faculty members and my classmates, who helped me feel accepted and become proficient, I made the honor roll all three years. The commitments my eighth-grade teachers made laid the foundation for achieving my goals. Conner High School provided an environment for both learning and social involvement. Positive reinforcement from my parents paired with the encouragement of my teachers helped me pursue my goals. Through all of my school experiences the one thing I have learned is the will to succeed comes fro.

Cameron Draper, Florence
Conner High School


As I reflect on my 13 years in Cincinnati Public Schools, I believe that for the most part I have been very well prepared academically. Although my grades are not the best, the teachers and staff have been helpful because they care. Seeing how much the teachers cared about me succeeding inspired and encouraged me to perform well. Going to Hughes Center after Shroder Paideia was the best decision my mother and I have made. Hughes has made it their personal goal to prepare me for life after high school. They presented every opportunity to me to be successful.

I think all Cincinnati Public Schools should be as involved in a child's education as the Hughes Center. Every teacher should have the same dedication in teaching their students. But not all the schools teach the same. They have different requirements and expectations. When I attended Bloom Middle School, I believed I was doing exceptionally well because I received all "A's." However, when I arrived at Shroder I realized that the students there knew far more than I did. I was not prepared the way I should have been. Still, I think CPS is a great opportunity for students of all ages.

D'lanio Hanley, Mount Airy
Paideia High School of Hughes Center


What has really made school worthwhile for me is the sense of accomplishment I have gained after 12 years. In the fifth grade, I was already being challenged through advanced classes. When I reached high school, I took advantage of the array of accelerated and AP classes available to me.

Sycamore has a variety of AP classes with such a talented staff that students can easily reach their highest potential. Although advanced classes encouraged me to try harder, they also made it more difficult for me to feel like I had truly excelled. I was surrounded by students who were smarter than I and thus received more of the teacher's attention. I realize now that it taught me to have some humility. The pressure to succeed can only help in the long run. I also learned to get involved, especially through Student Council and National Honor Society. Sycamore has so many clubs and sports, it's impossible not to get involved. I have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience. My advice to underclassmen: Seize every opportunity available. It's worth it.

Nikki San Miguel, Blue Ash
Sycamore High School

Sure enough, Mr. Ash: I'm in the newspaper!

My educational experience has been a triumph and success. I feel like a rose that has grown from the concrete. I am very thankful for the exceptional teachers who have provided me with the knowledge I now have. There was once a time, though, when I was considered a "slow" student and had nearly fallen through the cracks of the system.

When I attended Washington Park Elementary School, I was considered learning disabled. The school attempted to hold me back in the third grade. My mother, not accepting this, sent me to St. Joseph Elementary School, where I repeated the third grade. Once I was there, results could almost instantly be seen. I have been a successful student ever since.

I think St. Joseph was a better elementary school for me than Washington Park because the teachers at St. Joseph devoted more time to me. When I was at Washington Park, I felt lost. There was no one-on-one between students and teachers at all.

It wasn't necessarily the assignments that were more meaningful. It was more the teaching methods. The teachers I had at St. Joseph and in middle school were determined to make sure students learned. Often they directed lessons to real-world situations.

My all-time favorite teacher was Mr. Gregory Ash, simply because of the way he addressed me. He always treated me with the utmost respect. He used such motivation lines as, "I'm going to see you in the newspapers some day."

Now I am nearing graduation and will be graduating on time, thanks to Bloom Back on Track Accelerated Middle School. Regardless of the problems, I have had a good educational experience, overcoming obstacles and expectations. I plan on continuing my education pursuing the career of a screenplay writer.

Hi, Mr. Ash, you said I'd be in newspapers someday!

Jamaal L. Spivey, Price Hill

Withrow International

High School

Spiritual growth helped keep classmates close

After eight years in Sycamore Schools, I stepped into Mount Notre Dame High School as a freshman. Overwhelmed with hundreds of girls, I opened my locker for the first time, looked at my busy schedule, and thought how exciting to finally be in high school!

MND has been a wonderful experience for me. I couldn't have asked for a better four years. Three words that describe the teachers and faculty members at MND are welcoming, loving and helpful. I have had the privilege of developing friendships with my teachers that I hope to continue through college. Our teachers are always willing to help us before or after school, making sure we understand the material we study.

The religious atmosphere has really allowed me to grow in my faith. Attending retreats has brought our class very close together. I have been taught the importance of family, faith and developing a relationship with God.

Although my school lacked the diversity many schools provide, MND gave me the opportunity to set aside situations that might have hindered my education. I was able to concentrate specifically on my studies without the distractions many incur. Cheerleading for Moeller High School, attending school dances, Mother- and Father-Daughter functions, and after-school activities were unforgettable experiences. Our class is very united, and I will forever remember these life-touching events.

Kim Otten, Blue Ash

Mount Notre Dame High School

Finneytown, diversity made me more accepting

Some people believe that Finneytown is not good for academics because of all the big schools like St. Xavier and La Salle high schools located around the Finneytown area. But people are just on the outside looking in. I feel that Finneytown High School has prepared me well for my future studies at the University of Cincinnati.

The teachers at Finneytown care about their students' learning. They form classes around the strengths and learning abilities of the students. The classes at Finneytown are hands-on, whether it be group work or labs, and everyone always seems to grasp the topics being taught.

Before coming to Finneytown High School, I went to Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in the West End in grades K-8. There wasn't too much diversity in the school while I was there. My brother and I were the only light-skinned kids attending there.

It was a hard adjustment to come to Finneytown because I was in my comfort zone where I was at. But being exposed to all the different cultures and styles have helped me to grow as a person because I am tolerant and accepting of differences. That has prepared me for life.

Joseph Cromwell

Finneytown High School

School works best when preparing for life, not tests

From my personal experience in public education, I find that the system has three main effects: First, it aids the greatest number of students possible by preparing them with the necessary information to move up to junior high and high school. Second, it leaves many kids behind because of the blistering pace set by most teachers. Finally, it bores the most gifted students when they have to listen to the simplest course material because they are placed in a normal class instead of a class more befitting their intellect.

None of these problems can be placed on the teacher's shoulders. Rather, the problems lie in the mandated course material that teachers are required to teach in preparation for various standardized tests. The inevitable result: The system benefits the largest number of students possible at the expense of those students on either end of the learning curve.

To me, everything was basic coursework I had mastered throughout the year. This meant that I was bored out of my mind for most of the year. Only when I reached the junior high and the advanced programs specifically designed for advanced students was I finally challenged again.

From then on the system worked fine for me. I went through challenging courses with great teachers, with my achievements being a tribute to their skill as educators. Why did it work? Simple. The teachers weren't trying to prepare students for one test. They were preparing students for success in life.

Chris Ruwe, Harrison

William Henry Harrison

High School

Useful knowledge is the most important kind

As graduation approaches, students will think back on all their memories, good and bad. Through school and sports, I feel that I have been decently prepared academically and mentally for college. I say decently because of all the hours I have spent in classes that I will never use in the future. Schools are good at making kids take classes that hold no interest for them. If schools would allow students to concentrate more on the classes they want and less on the classes the school wants, all of us would be better prepared for college and for life.

Another harmful part of school is tests. Teachers find it necessary to give kids tons of information and then require that they memorize it within a couple of days. In most jobs in America, people can use sources and discuss things with others - they don't have to sit for an hour filling in bubbles and turning it in for a grade.

Although schools think it's important to know a lot of information, I believe life is not about how much you know, but that you use what you know.

Shaun Roth, Milford

Milford High School

Home-schooling was an amazing alternative

As high school draws to a close and I prepare to depart for Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I realize the uniqueness of my high school education. I was home-schooled for five years, during which I partook in incredible educational experiences, like volunteering at the Cincinnati Museum Center and enhancing my interest in writing through college courses.

I'm pretty self-motivated, so, while I took some subjects at home with my mom, I found topics like math were nearly impossible to complete out of a classroom. Also, I'm a very social person, and home-schooling is often criticized for not providing enough social interaction. I eliminated those and other hindering factors by participating in outstanding classes offered at Leaves of Learning, a hands-on educational enhancement program for home-schoolers in Loveland, where classes consist of no more than 15 people, teachers are addressed by first names, and classmates become like another family.

As seniors in "real" school prepare for large, classic cap-and-gown graduations, my graduation, which includes four seniors, will be a small, informal ceremony. I predict it'll be a perfect end to my amazing alternative education.

Hana Bieliauskas,

Mount Healthy


Boone County High gave me a needed fresh start

My educational life has been a long but very memorable ride. The first school I attended was Barber Elementary in Cleveland. Going to that school was very hard because of my race. Many people looked at me as if I didn't belong there at all. I managed to finally make friends for the most part, but I still felt like an alien.

I started my sixth-grade year out at Goodyear Middle School, in the same city, same state, and with the same people. People would always pressure me to drink or do drugs, but I was the little innocent girl next door and cheered my way through all of that. What people didn't know is I wanted to fit in, I wanted to try all those things ... so I did. That's when I got myself into a lot of trouble and had to move in with my dad.

My freshman year at Boone County High School in Florence was like starting my teenage life over again. Make new friends, get good grades, get the teachers to like you - what a job! When I got to BCHS, the teachers knew what I had been through, so they helped me a lot. I ended up making new friends and was happy.

I am so happy for myself right now and glad that I got through all of this. I'm sure in the future I will look back and say, "Man, I wish I could go back to those school days!" But until that day, I'm going to be happy where I am now and where I will be in about six months - college!

Brittani McElfresh,


Boone County High School

Norwood High taught value of hard work, respect

After having run the gamut of parochial, home school and private schools, my wish for a typical high school experience was granted when I started Norwood High School as a freshman. On the first day, I was overwhelmed by the mass of humanity waiting on the lawn for class to begin. Four years later, I was able to look at that crowd and see it as a mix of friends, a few enemies and people that I now share an incredible history with.

We're the products of an underrated school district with a treasury of dedicated teachers, administration and staff. We discovered that the only way to succeed was through hard work. We have been taught to respect others and ourselves, and we know the value of dedication.

Education is what the student makes of it. When a golden ticket to a better way of life is offered, it's our responsibility to take it. Those few who have given up on an education, and those whose seats will be empty on graduation day, have missed a wonderful opportunity to be a part of a wonderful school.

Kathleen E. Walker,


Norwood High School

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