Genevieve Karutz

Well, the time was finally here. With my new Vera Bradley backpack draped over my shoulders, I felt anxious at the thought of my first day at Prospect. I had documented my first-day fears in a colorful marble-print journal. On one of the first pages I detailed my feelings perfectly: “High school is coming soon and to be honest, I AM TERRIFIED. Terrified because I have no idea what to expect.” 


I really did have no idea what to expect. I had no older siblings, and I felt that my parents were far too ancient to understand the “modern high school experience.” As the days ticked down to the first day of class, I felt as if I was waiting at the start of a rollercoaster ride; all strapped in but oblivious to what the future holds. 


Like the beginning of every other school year, I posed in the front yard as my parents gushed over “how grown-up I was” and took pictures of me with my backpack before I entered my new world. 


Some of you might read this and wonder why I was so nervous for high school, so let me preface this: I hated middle school to the extent that my expectations could not have been lower for Prospect. 


For me, middle school was like when your friend plays a song on the aux that makes you wonder “when will this finally be over?” So when I walked out of my middle school graduation, I never looked back. 


Long story short, the second I started Prospect I absolutely loved it. I got involved in clubs and played volleyball. I met so many new people and felt happier than I had ever been before. 


After my first month of high school, I wrote a lengthy entry in my journal titled: “FIRST MONTH OF SCHOOL DONE” with a smiley face messily drawn in the top right hand corner. The journal entry included such “invigorating” details as what I ate for breakfast every morning, but it also included this statement: “High school has let me be myself again. Nothing can sound as powerful as that sentence is to me right now.” 


Prospect has been the best time of my life so far, but I have realized that many people feel differently. I have heard many students throw around phrases like “I hate Prospect” and are critical of the school in general. 


Naturally, students seem more disinterested with Prospect as a whole ever since the pandemic. Besides students staying home for COVID-19 concerns, which is completely understandable, some students avoid coming to Prospect just because they “don’t like going to school.” 


This apathetic attitude makes me concerned because I feel that many students are missing out on their high school experience and are hypercritical of Prospect because of ignorance, not legitimate reasons.


I’m about to say something that might make you cringe over how cliche it is. Ready? OK. High school is what you make of it, and if you don’t try even a little, you’re in for a long, tedious four years. 


I have noted how the pandemic has brought losses into everyone’s lives. It might have been a missed sports season, vacation or, in more extreme cases, the loss of a loved one. 


Some people’s lives have completely been turned upside down. But regardless of what we have lost, I think one lesson the pandemic has taught me is the importance of cherishing what I have and making the most of every day and every experience that comes along with it.


After going in-person for school and attending club meetings in-person (and virtually), I have noticed the people around me feel the same way when it comes to making the most of what we have and staying optimistic. But despite the optimistic students and faculty I have been surrounding myself with, I feel that some students are more distant than ever. It really breaks my heart.


Again, I am not shaming the students who are afraid, have high-risk family members or are high-risk themselves. I am referring to those who skip school events, barely turn on their cameras for online school every morning and don’t get involved in clubs or activities at Prospect. 


Most of the apathetic attitudes I noticed were prevalent before the coronavirus but have rather been reinforced by the pandemic.


Like anything in life, it’s easy to be a hypocrite. It’s easy to say you “hate” Prospect if you barely utilize what Prospect has to offer. It’s like telling people you hate a certain food when you’ve only had one bite. And come on, Prospect has so many activities and events, it’s like free samples at Mariano’s, people!


Often, I hear people complain that Prospect is cliquey. I have always found this criticism off putting because there are definitely ways to avoid the stereotypical cliques of high school. Joining different clubs and electives allows for students to meet a variety of people from different groups, ages and academic levels. 


As much as it annoys me when people make fun of Gen Zs for being “lazy”, by complaining about Prospect and doing nothing to improve your experience, it’s kind of buying into the Gen Z stereotype.


In addition, It’s not uncommon to overhear someone complaining that Prospect teachers “don’t care” about their students mentally or academically. 


Throughout my four years at Prospect, I have had amazing teachers and have only experienced feeling like this from about one or two teachers out of the over 20 I had. Feeling alone has rarely ever been a problem for me at Prospect. The staff does a pretty good job at helping students — even throughout hybrid learning.


But, please, for a minute, trust me. I do not love every single thing about Prospect. I understand Prospect does have its flaws and that not every student will be happy and enjoy their high school experience. 


People may be struggling with so many problems and high school can sometimes be an added stressor. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy Prospect even if they make the most of their experience, but what I want is for people to at least try to get involved and try to improve their experience.


And as much as I love Prospect, there are definitely areas we can continue to improve and challenge the school to grow and be better. I recognize that one of the largest flaws in the building is the lack of diversity. I can understand how this alienates students and faculty of color. 


For anyone that dislikes Prospect for feeling alienated, oppressed or judged, I wholeheartedly validate your feelings and believe that social justice is an ongoing important cause that needs to be addressed more. I believe that although Prospect has greatly improved their efforts to help promote social justice through policy, we can always continue to improve so that all students feel welcomed. 


This year, feminine hygiene products are now available in all bathrooms, and this is one example of a step Prospect has taken to help be more progressive. Furthermore in regards to improving measures racial equity, Prospect will be adding Multicultural Literature as an English course for seniors. I was so excited when I heard about this new class and I am so proud of the administration and students who made this possible.


But although Prospect is not a perfect school, it doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t work to enjoy what they have as much as possible. Regardless of any criticism Prospect may receive, academically, Prospect is an amazing school and we are so privileged to have access to a top education and the learning resources available to us. 


In these times more than ever, it is important that we recognize privileges that we have in our own lives. I am very lucky to be blessed with an easy life. I consider my education at Prospect to be another very important part of my life that I am grateful to have.


Practicing mindfulness has allowed for me to not only become more fond of Prospect but to become more understanding as to why others may not share the same positive experience at Prospect that I do.


I am not going to sit here and be overly optimistic. I know there will always be someone to groan “I hate school.” I have groaned similar words after failing an AP Statistics test, almost ran over in the school parking lot or when I spilled grape juice down my pants freshman year. (Not my fondest Prospect memories, that’s for sure…)


But despite every small, annoying, frustrating moment of high school, I wouldn’t change anything about it for the world. I will look back in 20 years and remember how much I loved this school, the people and this building. OK, except maybe the crammed stairwells; I will not miss that at all.


And although I have spent the last few years of my life preparing, it is finally my time to take flight. So instead of wishing you all a goodbye, I will leave you all with a note of encouragement. Go to the sports game, sign up for the club you always wanted to try, don’t be a stranger to your teachers. But also, stand up. Promote. Advocate. For the future of Prospect and the world that you want to see. 


I am no longer the anxious girl walking through the commons on the first day of high school. A whole building that once seemed foreign to me has transformed into a home of memories —  filled with people that I love. I know as I walk out of these doors for good I will no longer be a student, but I know in my heart that I will always be a Knight.