2009-01-08 / Schools

Westlake High School did an excellent job in college preparation, graduate says

By Sidney Primas Special to the Acorn

In the past couple of months, numerous articles appeared in both newspapers and magazines that ultimately blame the American public school system for our nation's abysmal test scores. Critics direct the accusations toward the teachers and the supposedly ineffective administrations that churn out ill-educated students.

As a student who attended a public school, I have a very different story- - one not often referenced in these discussions.

My public school prepared me so well for the rigors of college that I could cruise through freshman year, working and learning less than I did during my high school career.

I graduated from Westlake High School in 2008 and decided to attend Duke University. The summer before attending Duke, I often entertained ideas that I was illprepared and incompetent to face the academic challenges that would surface over the next year at this rigorous institution.

At the very least, I expected both the academic challenges and the motivation of my peers to surpass what I had encountered at Westlake High School. However, my experience clearly exposed this view as an illusion.

I can say without a hint of reservation that I had to climb no stairs to transition to the college course levels, but just traverse a bridge toward classes that were a continuation of those in high school. Due to the amazing teachers that mentored me and the resources available at my high school, I was prepared for university courses with leeway to spare.

In fact, my most influential and educational academic experiences can still be traced to Westlake High School.

From mentors that remained at school until 5 p.m. on a regular basis to the hardest yet most enlightening courses I have ever taken, Westlake High truly created an environment where I could thrive.

Due to their efforts, at the initiation of my college education, I started out with an advantage over my peers, even over those who attended private schools.

For those couple of strides ahead of the pack, I can thank Westlake High and the dedication of the teachers.

Originally, my decision to pursue a degree at Duke hinged upon the now much debated topic of public versus private schools, a question even high school parents encounter.

I debated if the excessive cost for private school really translates into a better education.

I contemplated if the prestige of the school accents the resume more than the actual achievements accomplished there?

When I tried to hone my decision by asking others, the long discussions were always punctuated with some derivation of "College is what you make out of it." Only now do I understand the truth inherent in that statement. Public high schools, just as colleges, only can provide us with opportunities, but we make our experiences ourselves.

The opportunities were more than available at Westlake High School. Advanced Placement classes start as early as ninth grade, and I could not have taken all provided even if I had invested my time into only schoolwork for four years. There were so many clubs on campus that the trouble was not the scarcity of arenas to get involved in, but selecting the few that could fit in my schedule.

Outside the classroom, Westlake High School provides opportunities for students to excel and the caring mentors to ensure they stay on track. All I had to do was pick up my head and select from the opportunities that were practically laid out on a menu in front of me.

As for inside the classroom, my contribution was enrolling in AP curriculums and giving my best; the rest can be attributed to the teachers. They created the rigorous coursework and administered so many essays and tests that their personal life must have been swamped with grading.

Although we, as students, never appreciate homework, no matter the benefits, we do appreciate the work habits and knowledge gained. I am all the more thankful that my teachers piled on the coursework despite our thankless complaints.

After embracing the opportunities that present themselves and just striving to do their best in the classroom, any student can match up to the product of years of wasted money at a private institution.

Although the quality of schools varies across the country, after attending Westlake High School I often question the reports of pervasive flaws in the American school system.

If other schools are anything like Westlake High School, then we definitely should not have any problems.

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