There are few things in life that I love more than blogging and chatting on Facebook. Recently, I joined Facebook, I managed to get in touch with some old classmates. After chatting awhile with them, I realized that they seem to be on a mission for the same thing as I: a reunion! It seemed fitting that we should all come together now (in earnest) to try and reminisce about a singular, unique experience that shaped our lives forever.
We were all blessed to be part of a small group of students (about 60 or so of us) to graduate from an elite inner-city school. We didn’t know it at the time, but we’d be the last class to share the torture of a very strict dress-code, an old school name, and an old school location. At the time, we were unable to process what we had managed to accomplish in a brief 4 years. It was hard and challenging, but it truly prepared us for the great big world out there. If I seem overly nostalgic, it’s because it was that kind of place. Not too many people can say that they pretty much knew every classmate by first and last name. Not everyone can say that they had worked harder during those 4 years than in college. Not everyone could have experienced a true understanding of a school that broke all records and set precedent for academic achievement in the unlikeliest town.
We were the last of the best:
After we graduated, everything changed. After us, through nepotism, dress code adjustments, and a larger quota for acceptance (possible due to the change of location of the school) the bar that we had raised, lowered significantly. I don’t care what others say: the proof is in the pudding. We had to work for what we were given. Only a small number of students from area grade schools were accepted. Many were rejected and placed on endless waiting lists. We had classes in freezing basements and a defunct Eukranian church. We had to share a local college gymnasium to hold our “Phys Ed” courses and team practices. Our “library” was made up of books housed in steel-cabinets reminscent of a prison. It wasn’t as easy then as it is now.
We Weren’t All That Different After All:
On my way to rekindling old friendships, I stumbled upon a classmate that had always seemed so cool and intellectual as to set me reeling. I almost envied her: the brain of the class she seemed so adult and together that I knew she was out of my league. While I struggled to navigate the labyrith of Mr. Royster’s Advanced History course, she was aloof and way beyond me in her overwhelming knowledge of historical events. When I joined FB, I began to chat with her. She was very kind and not as self-absorbed as I recall. The chatting was refreshing and she finally admitted that competition set us all in this mode in high-school that I’d almost forgotten. We were all so focused on our goals then. I just wanted to pass, others were more ambitious eager to make lists of over-achieving student listings to set them apart on the road to collegiate success. I don’t think we even really breathed back then. Every class was an opportunity to outshine your classmates and the goal was to be noticed and praised. At least, that was my goal. After chatting a bit, my classmate made a startling discovery. “Wow!” she wrote, “I guess we weren’t all that different after all.” Nope. We were all eager, anxious to hit the next target, our next goal. Sometimes, we didn’t see the forest for the trees. But it made us better people. We all made something of ourselves. “I was going to save the world…” We did. We all did.
Raise The Banner of the Cougar High:
I still remember the words to the alma mater that was force-fed to us in a crowded music class. “Sing it with pride! Y’all gotta learn it…” Mrs. McIver would holler out at us. I kept wondering why she made such a big deal out of learning those horrible lyrics:
Sing the song of honor and praise
For Academic High whose banner we raised
We will ever loyal be, thy fame will spread over land and sea
From this school shines forth a light
It’s lamp of knowledge does burn bright
Though it emits tiny rays, they will influence future days
Sing the song of our alma mater loud
Sing it fervently, and sing it proud
Raise the banner of the Cougar High
Raise it up to the vast blue sky!
Now, seventeen years later, I understand.