Reflections of a High School Graduate: Continuous Improvement

If we are stagnant, we will generally stink. That is what one of my mentors used to preach. I generally agree. I am a staunch proponent of continuous improvement being a sacred responsibility of educators. The best educators are always reflecting and asking for the feedback of their students.

As a principal, the feedback loop must include students. Our students complete surveys about their experience in school and we solicit their opinions and feedback. I asked this recent alumnae to reflect on her experience in our school community and write her reflections. Here is some of what she shared.

When people think about high school, they imagine it as a place filled with friendship and laughter, like in the popular Disney musical, High School Musical. In reality high school is much more than that.

In my experience, high school has been a very interesting chapter. Not saying that there isn’t any laughter, fun, and rainbows, but from a realistic point of view, high school is filled with its ups and downs and definitely includes a little bit of teenage drama. With that, I strongly believe high school is just the start of adulthood, character, and relationships.

My name is Nyria N.M. Stuart-Thompson and I am a part of Mastery Charter Shoemaker Campus’ (MCSC) Class of 2016! With a full tuition, in the fall, I will be attending University of Vermont- College of Nursing and Health sciences.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending this charter school for my middle and senior years of schooling, from seventh grade to senior year. I can strongly admit that this school not only meets its educational programming goals, but goes above and beyond for their students and their families (aka the PUMA Parents).

The Class of 2016 has not only earned over 6 million dollars in scholarships and grants, but also participated in 100+ internships throughout the Philadelphia area. My classmates also enrolled into variety of dual enrollment programs at prestigious colleges and universities!

Shoemaker has granted me the opportunity to develop mutual respect with my teachers. I have also developed lasting bonds with my teachers, a strong sense of belonging, and everlasting friendships and connections with my friends.

Being a senior in high school has been incredibly stressful; two advanced placement classes, a foreign language class, and the endless amount of senior projects had me in a perpetual and immeasurable sea of anxiety.

I’ve always had an indifferent relationship with the subject of history because some topics/lessons were more interesting than others and most of my former teachers (at my previous school) didn’t have the best teaching skills (in my opinion). They didn’t try to engage us.

One class in particular that gave me the most anxiety was my AP Government class. I had struggled with this class since the beginning of the year and sadly hadn’t come to the conclusion to ask for assistance.

I remember the first lesson my classmates and I learned as if it was yesterday – it was terrible! The lesson pertained to America’s first official government (I believe it was the Articles of Confederations) which basically, in my head, was nonsense in a nutshell.

My indifference to history class became crystal clear; I’ve never hated a class so much that I purposely decided to not complete the assigned homework. As a result, I did not take that class seriously. However, as months passed, I saw my grade plummet (something I am not used to). I hadn’t asked for assistance because of my pride and stubbornness. As my grade suffered, I knew that I was not going to improve my abilities in the class without seeking out help in office hours. Ultimately, I had to put my pride aside because my grades are a reflection of my character and if I fail one of my courses, what does that say about my character?

But on a brighter note, one of my favorite memories at Shoemaker would have to be my internship in my sophomore year. My educational aspirations consist of acquiring a Bachelors in Science for nursing, with a primary focus towards women’s health.

Therefore, through networking support of Shoemaker’s sophomore teachers, I became an intern at Saint Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. I was placed in the Emergency Room, where I witnessed first-hand the trauma that many Philadelphia youth experience: gunshot wounds, burn victims, attempted suicides, rape victims, and drug-overdosed patients.

Through that internship, I realized that being a part of the medical field was my desired career path. I want to be surrounded by awesome doctors and nurses (and other health professionals), helping to save lives. Some of the most important characteristics of an exemplary nurse include empathy, warmth, and selflessness. I am proud to say that I often exhibit all of these characteristics.

In the end, I can honestly say that the endless amount of “all-nighters”, cups of coffee, AP readings, and the amount of community service were absolutely worth it!

Although I am sad to leave my family and my Shoemaker community, I understand a piece of my teenage life must come to an end in order to open a new chapter in my journey of adulthood. I am excited to begin this new chapter this fall at the University of Vermont.

Thank you Shoemaker Campus, I will make you proud.

#ShoeCrew #PUMAPride

Nyria N.M. Stuart-Thompson Class of 2016

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About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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