I Almost Went to Central

Maya Smelser

Staff Writer

I always knew I wanted to go to SLA. When I heard there was a school that gave out projects instead of tests, I was sold. I have always been the type of student who thrives with hands-on learning.

And yet, I still strongly considered going to Central. 

Why is that? Most people from my middle school, including every one of my friends, planned on heading  to Central. Going to Central, a huge high school with over 2000 students,  would have been scary.  But going to a school where I knew basically no one would have been scarier. 

My elementary and middle school held about 500 students, with only 41 in my grade at the end of 8th grade. So Central would have been a big jump, even though lots of friends were doing it.

And Central never appealed to me. It seemed crowded and like a  lot of work. I had been to the building a few times to see my older sister’s concerts and found the place intimidating. I had also seen how my sister’s personal life had disappeared behind her textbooks, especially after she joined the school’s IB program. 

I had also shadowed at Central in the beginning of my 8th grade year. My friends left even more excited than before, while I left confused. I had almost been trampled in the halls by people triple my size. The classes were full of students, sat in rows, but crammed in tiny classrooms. Few people seemed like they actually wanted to be there.

Even with all this compelling evidence to deter me from Central, the idea of going to a school entirely full of strangers was a million times worse. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make any friends. I was terrified to be all alone.

Then, the day before I was meant to shadow at SLA, the news of the asbestos broke. I was crushed. Was the school I hoped for even going to be open to me next year?

I still got to do my interview later that year. It was, to date, one the most nerve wracking days of my life. I hated talking in front of people, especially if I didn’t know them. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job because I knew how important it was.

Then the big day came. One Friday in early January, at exactly 5:00 pm, alone in my room, I opened my computer and checked to see what highschools I had been accepted to. I applied to four schools, SLA Center City, SLA Bieber, Central, and Palumbo. I had gotten into all of them except SLA Bieber. I was hoping the decision would just be made for me. No luck.

I decided to shadow at SLA Center City, even though they were relocated to the School District Building at the time. I loved it. The classes were engaging and the environment seemed so welcoming. I’ve always been a creative person and I felt like this would be the place where I would thrive.

It was nothing like the version of high school my middle school teachers had warned me about, where the teachers would be harsh and the students unfriendly. Which was great, because that sounded terrible.

A week after that time in my room, I had decided. It was SLA. It was always SLA. I wasn’t going to go to Central just because I was afraid. 

I had no idea what would happen next — none of us did. But the fact that I overcame my fear about a big transition helped me when COVID hit. I knew it would all work out. 

Now, I’m almost a junior and I am very happy with that decision. SLA was the perfect fit I expected. I’m glad I didn’t let fear make my decision for me.

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