I’m not wealthy. Oddly enough, that makes me somewhat of a minority in my town. I live in a town in the northwest, population around 23,000 people and growing. Because most families here can afford to send their kids to top colleges, and most parents themselves attended college, the pressure to succeed in school is great. My high school consistently tests as one of the top two in my state, and my high school is loaded with expectations. The community expects kids not just to graduate, but to graduate with honors. Kids who are not team captains, honor roll placers, club presidents, distinguished musicians, artists, or thespians are often considered mundane.
I know my community is probably one of the few in the world that is like this. On one hand, I feel lucky to live here, where education is a priority for taxpayers; on the other hand, after living here since Kindergarten, I’m finally beginning to get fed up with all the expectations. To graduate from high school is a great achievement. That alone should be worthy of praise, but my community seems to demand more, more, more.
I have a friend who is in all honors classes, opinions editor on the school newspaper, president of Amnesty International, a dedicated member of the crew team, and participates in seven other time-consuming activities on top of that, among them dance lessons, more clubs, babysitting jobs and community service. Every adult who meets her absolutely adores her. She barely has time to eat dinner every night.
What’s the point of working yourself to the bone to please others and get into college? People should participate in activities that make them happy. I was in National Honor society for a year. When I joined, I thought NHS would be a place for kids who genuinely wanted to help the community and prove that teenagers can positively contribute to society. Rather, I found a group of kids who joined the club solely because it would look good on their college applications. I left the club, and I’m glad I did. Now I do community service because I’m passionate about it, not because it’s required for NHS membership.
Working hard in school and maintaining leadership positions are wonderful things. I just wish the adults in my community could all understand that those things aren’t for everyone and, in fact, college is not for everyone either. I have a friend who absolutely loves cars. His greatest dream is to become a mechanic. Just because his passion isn’t academic, and just because his career of choice doesn’t require six years of expensive college tuition, does he deserve any less respect than the math whiz who plans on attending Stanford? My car-loving friend has found his passion and wants to live it, and I think that is every bit as amazing as attending an Ivy League school.
As for me, well—my passion is writing. And I do want to go to college, and I do work hard in school. I guess, in a way, I’m falling right into the mold my community set for me. But expectations have nothing to do with it. I just want to live in and contribute to a world surrounded by books, paragraphs, articles and semicolons. It’ll probably be easier with a college education, and I’m thankful that I have that opportunity. It saddens me to know, however, that should I choose to pursue a career in fishing, my community would view me as a failure. I wish my community could better understand that academics are not everything, and recognize the passion and intelligence in every teenager, not just the so-called shining stars. College isn’t everything; there’s a big world out there.- Lilly