Triumph of the small school student
As the school year begins to slow down and students trudge wearily through finals and college selection, there arrives a time to contemplate the journey that has brought us to this point in time. Depending on who is asked, some reflect joyously about kind friends and fun social events while others grimace at past academic struggles and failed relationships. How many of those experiences were influenced by the size of the school?
Most have heard of the alleged disadvantages of attending smaller-sized schools: limited electives and minimal available Advanced Placement classes, extra-curricular activities and athletics.
Some believe Live Oak High School suffers from these disadvantages. Home economics was phased out this year, leaving students with few options to fill spare time in their schedules. There are only two AP classes, paling in comparison to schools that can provide students with an AP alternative to almost every academic class imaginable.
Even so, the adage "quality not quantity" becomes critical in assessing these supposed hindrances. Academically, LOHS has been recognized as a California Distinguished School. Many of this year's seniors have been admitted to prestigious post-secondary institutions. Among them is senior Hamera Kahn, 18, who has been accepted to several universities, including Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of California, Berkeley, and U.C. Los Angeles.
"I've definitely felt like my options were limited at times. However, attending Live Oak High School has its benefits," Hamera said. "The teachers and staff know who everyone is and know exactly what they need. It has proven to have been an invaluable factor in my college admittances."
Others praise the close social atmosphere more easily attained at a small high school. Senior Jaskiran Phagura, 17, explained, "There aren't any restrictions with who we can hang out with. People with similar goals and interests don't feel pitted against each other in a competitive manner. Instead, we tend to complement each other's talents and grow together."
LOHS has succeeded in nurturing talented athletes as well. This year, two athletes were recognized for their achievements by the Appeal-Democrat. Senior Armando Araujo was named the A-D's 2011-12 All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Similarly, senior Amyah Clark was honored with the A-D's All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year title.
The small LOHS environment has driven some students to excel in other talents and hobbies. Senior Cassidy Williams, 17, follows her journalistic passions both in and out of school. "Joining journalism in my junior year and interacting with different people has taught me so much about the investigative process," Cassidy said. She now serves as the editor-in-chief for LOHS's online news source, Manelines. Cassidy chose to create and write for her own blog as her senior project, expanding her skills with the support of LOHS faculty and her project mentor.
For far too long, small schools have been viewed as perpetually in a state of need or lacking a vital component. There is unnecessary focus on the deficiencies of small schools rather than their strengths. But Live Oak High School proves that students from diverse backgrounds and possessing unique talents can succeed and prosper.
Ciria Salazar is a senior at Live Oak High School. Her column appears every six weeks in Education.