Reflections On High School: An Alum Looks Back in a Speech Given at the America Achieves Conference

Raven Matthews, a member of Sci Academy’s Class of 2012, gave the following speech in front of dozens of people at America Achieves’ New Orleans conference on Saturday, March 7th.

Being born and raised in New Orleans has paved a very exciting life for me. Every time I go out in New Orleans, I live as a tourist in my own city, eager to learn new and unique things. I bleed black and gold and always let the good times roll. Every street is a different adventure, every festival is a different experience, and every neutral ground or sidewalk is a future parade site, each bringing inspiring ideas.

Though I always loved my city, I knew when I was growing up that it was not perfect. After Hurricane Katrina, I attended school with students who were there just to get out of the house. At my old school, I would see fights every single day while the teacher casually called for security. I saw my peers use books as drums and pencils as drumsticks. Thinking back, I realize now that we lost so much precious learning time that we can never regain. As a result, many students fell behind in important subjects like math and science.

Around four years later, I stumbled upon the best school of my life: my high school, Sci Academy.

On my first day of high school, I had always imagined getting my locker key, being intimidated by the upperclassmen, not knowing where my classes were, and not knowing anyone there. To my surprise, Sci Academy turned out to be quite the opposite. There were no lockers and no upperclassmen. There was one huge trailer where we took all of our classes, and a huge room where we received awards and participated in school wide activities.

There were college flags everywhere, and on the first day, teachers were ready to greet me with the biggest smile I had ever seen. There were college trips that helped us envision what it would actually be like to be on a campus and attending classes. Teachers would snap their fingers at us when we said something that they agreed with, and give us magic when we needed encouragement.

Over time, we started to understand the unique culture at school. Both the class of 2012 and the teachers at Sci formed a family-like bond. I realized that a building isn’t what gives you a great education. Instead, it was the breathtaking passion that the teachers showed each day. It was the credo, which is an inspiring chant that we said so much that it became engraved in our minds. It was the college trips that inspired us to reach for higher education. It was our advisors, who kept us on our toes and shared their pride and enthusiasm from their universities. It was teachers like Mr. Pollack, who taught us that singing and rapping was the coolest way for us to remember our multiplication tables. And, most importantly, it was the principal, who made visits to each student’s house, and sat down with their families to show that he was going to be there every step of the way.

Each day as a Sci Academy student, we were inspired to be the best we could be. Every rule, from walking in between black lines, to being quiet at a level zero, was enforced to better my education. I didn’t always realize it at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate all of the rules and guidelines that Sci Academy taught me. Now, as I walk down the halls of my college, I think to myself that if there were black lines on the floor, I know I would get to class faster.

As an alumnus, I also continue to seek the relationship and bond that I had with my advisor, Ms. Bouchie. Ms. Bouchie is like my second mom. She was there for my advisory sisters and me no matter what we needed, whether it was going out to get us Popeyes to celebrate a big success, or buying us foam fingers to allow us to show our advisory spirit. Without her, I would not have had the high school experiences that I’ve had.

I look for a bit of Sci everywhere I go. I frequently find myself giving people magic when I know they need help. Back then, I wasn’t too fond of some of the rules, but looking back, I would do them a thousand times more because I realize that Sci Academy has shaped me into the best student I could ever be. I am eager to learn more and to give back to others.

Today, I am currently in school to become an elementary school teacher. I am very proud to say that the dedicated teachers at Sci Academy heavily influenced my decision to pursue an education major. My experience at Sci showed me that New Orleans teachers care about my future. I want to be just like them, with the energy, passion, and inspiration to pass on to young children. And, I hope that one day my future students can get in front of a crowd of strangers and speak from the heart about the influence I had on them. Sci has definitely left a beautiful mark on me.

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