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The first time I visited West Nottingham Academy, I unpacked all my stuff and stayed there for three months. Before then, my entire knowledge of WNA was from Instagram posts and Niche reviews. Despite my unpreparedness—or maybe because of my unpreparedness—my time at WNA became, by far, the best stage of my life.
My freshman year served as an exploratory year in every fashion of the word. One exploration came in the form of academic strengths. I took Algebra II and Physics, two extremely hard classes for me. I was forced to refine my study habits early on, which became the most important habits that I hold now, as a senior. In sports, I got to play lacrosse and join Chance (Cheerleading + Dance=Chance!); these were two sports I did not even know I could have the possibility of trying out. On the field and in the gym, I was immediately embraced in a welcoming community. The older players and coaches patiently showed me what to do and made sure I completely understood. Even better, I was given opportunities to shine in both sports, whether through embracing a defense position in lacrosse or a duet in a Chance performance. Although I no longer play either sport, the lessons of being patient with my body and participating as part of a team served as a constant reminder of the fun I had.
Perhaps the greatest things that happened to me freshman year came socially. Throughout middle school, I was scared to take on projects that related to justice and leadership–the closest I ever got was being a secretary for SGA in eighth grade. But, at WNA, I was able to take on those projects with some of the greatest support I had ever witnessed. I remember in February of that year, there was a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Florida. The shooting happened quite close to a place where I used to live, which pushed me to want to do something to support the cause. I brought the topic up to the academic and student life departments, which encouraged me to create an event in support of the March for Our Lives movement and helped me with the planning every step of the way. In April of that year, I led a National High School Walkout as a partner of March for Our Lives.
My sophomore year taught me how to persevere when change occurs. I was never particularly bad with change, but then again, I had not yet experienced changes to this degree. During my freshman and sophomore year, I gained two major mentors: Ms.Charles (my Algebra II teacher and soccer coach) and Mr. Donnelly (my advisor, Chemistry teacher, and soccer coach). They helped me mature my academic skills and become a confident center-back in soccer. By the end of the year, both took their leave from WNA to pursue further education or to bond further with their families. At first, I was very hesitant with how I was to proceed without either of my mentors and I contemplated leaving with them. Once I got over my fit of denial, I learned to be my own mentor. I took the tools they taught me and forged them to continue my success at WNA, as well as mentor those younger than me. I became more confident in every stage of my life and pushed those around me to do the same. Most importantly, I learned to push through the pain of those I love leaving and understand that the things they teach me remain in my mind forever.
My junior year taught me to take challenges. I took 2 AP classes that year, AP Calculus AB and Advanced European History. I never was strong in history classes, so the decision to take European History held no other pros but my interest in how historical events affect our daily lives. Coupled with a few honors courses, my academic course load pushed me far but taught me that I should not be safe with my academic choices. Yes, I had to work twice as hard to maintain my grades, but I got to think critically about real challenges instead of sitting docile in an environment that would have failed to challenge me. I do not have much memory of what I did outside of academics; most of the months were a blur of trying to clean up my resume and just make it through the year. But I guess my junior year taught me that having a transitional year without chaotic changes is not a bad thing to have. I was able to experience peace during that year and focus on what I love without the struggle of major changes or beginning something for the first time. Of course, this all changes in March of 2020 when COVID-19 took over the world and rendered me to a realm of online classes and takeout delivery. If anything was a challenge, it was online school. I struggled to maintain attention during classes or the desire to keep moving when the world as I knew it collapsed. But the challenge was taken and processed with as much care as I could get and was completed with, I’ll admit, less passion than I probably should have had.
And that takes me to this year: senior year. It was supposed to be filled with the excitement of senior sports nights and homecoming and joyous hugs every time someone received a college acceptance. Unfortunately, I did not get any of that but if there is one thing this year taught me, it was how to get creative. I ran and was selected to be the Student Body President, so I figured it was my mission to get creative and make this year exciting despite the pandemic looming over everyone’s minds. My biggest revelation during the first semester was that creativity was not all up to me; everyone was pushing themselves to be as right-brain dominant as they could. So, instead of senior sports nights and homecoming and joyous hugs, my senior year was filled competitive Athletic Wednesdays (imagine it: twenty-ish competitive-as-heck teenagers, ten ropes, and the fastest-paced indoor human foosball game ever seen. Get the picture?), the creation of a movie theater in Finley-Bathon known as the Finaplex (popcorn, nachos, and a sad romance movie? Who could ask for more?), PowerPoint Parties on top of PowerPoint Parties, private movie theater showings, soccer games on the Quad, and definitely a lot more.
This year may not have been everything I ever wanted, but I would not trade it for anything. COVID was difficult but it made me more resilient. Not hugging my friends was hard, but it made my relationships stronger. Not being able to hang out with people 24 hours a day was isolating at first, but have you ever had a dance party in your newly decorated single room at two in the morning? Legendary!
This was authored by Sarah Lockett ’21. Sarah Lockett will be attending Villanova University this fall. Congratulations to Sarah and the Class of 2021!