How do you interact with your immediate world?
In a school as small as The College Preparatory School (CPS), I often joke that just from looking at someone’s shoes, I can give his or her first and last name and favorite color. Obviously this is an overstatement, but the point is that my “world” is relatively small. I chose to go to CPS because I was hoping for a feeling of kinship and intimacy, a comfortable and open environment.However, I quickly noticed that students had formed small social groups that did not interact with one another. The class felt divided, lacking the sense of community I was seeking. Worse, I found myself caught up in this mentality, a part of one of these small groups. I realized that I was adding to the social separation that had occurred. Disappointed with myself and determined to change the way I interacted with my classmates, I made a conscious decision to reach out to a wider group of people, to “become the change I wanted to see in my world.”Knowing that I couldn’t change the class dynamic overnight, I decided to start small. About halfway through my freshman year, I organized a bowling party, hoping that it would be an opportunity for different groups of students in my class to interact with one another. I made fliers, organized carpools, and rented out part of the bowling alley. Almost three-quarters of the class came and bonded in a comfortable setting entirely unrelated to school. Though it was only a single event, I believe that it began the process of knocking down the barriers that developed during the first few months of school.Building on the success of this bowling party, during my sophomore year, I enlisted a friend to help me create and organize a bowling class during “Intraterm,” a week where the school offers a variety of non-academic classes. For months, we did fund-raising and financial planning so that we could hire a personal bowling instructor, rent the bowling alley for a week, and even buy two customized bowling balls for the winner of a tournament we set up. It was, for both of us, a rewarding accomplishment to set up one of the few completely student-run Intraterm classes. The true reward, though, was seeing how the class had brought together a variety of students. Everybody in the class – freshman, seniors, girls, boys, good bowlers and bad – left the week feeling as if we were all one big bowling family. By the end of the week, I realized that though it was rewarding to bowl a “turkey” (three strikes in a row), it was even more satisfying to watch the people in the class who had never bowled before getting lessons from those who had, and seeing their smiles as they got their first strikes.Later that year I began to wonder if ping-pong could bring our school together like bowling had. I ran the idea past the Dean of Students, presented it to student council, and asked for funding for a ping-pong table. After almost a month of debate, the idea was approved and I bought the table. Within the first week, I set up a tournament, organizing the brackets so that athletes would have to set up tournament games with math whizzes, teachers with students, freshman with seniors. To my satisfaction, students not only connected to play their games, but also began to extend these new friendships beyond ping-pong. The table and tournaments had brought together students and faculty in a comfortable arena entirely unrelated to academics or the pre-existing groups.Seeing how much impact these small projects had on the overall sense of community, I thought that I could accomplish even more by expanding my involvement in student government. Having been a freshman and sophomore class representative, this year I ran for student body president. My platform was to dedicate the student council to building a better community atmosphere, and to making life at CPS more enjoyable. I have since used my position as president to implement more substantial ideas aimed to accomplish these goals. The student council has improved CPS through a wide range of school-wide events and projects. For example, we organized a spirit rally; we have “Music and Food Days” at least once every week, where all students can eat lunch together and listen to music; and we are in the process of organizing an outside-of-school event where all students will be encouraged to go bowling or miniature-golfing, or watch a movie in a rented-out theater. Though we have not eliminated all of the cliques, from what I see, students are beginning to feel less like a high school and more like a family, and less like a high school.Over the past four years, CPS has reinforced in me the value of a close community environment. The feeling of comfort I get from such an environment not only enhances my ability to thrive in a classroom setting, but also adds to the quality of my daily life. So even at a college where I can’t know everyone’s favorite color just from looking at their shoes, I know that I will continue to do my part to help create a strong community, whether it be in a dorm, on a sports team, or even in the class as a whole.