In a society where colleges hunt down high GPAs and flawless report cards, it remains difficult to convince parents to place their students in a more difficult environment. It does not make sense to take on heftier homework loads in exchange for lower grades. Doing so could result in a disadvantage when applying to colleges. However, after being a student at a charter school for four years, I understand the reasoning behind a challenging and rigorous grading system. My name is Alex Hastings, I am a graduating senior at the Charter Academy in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, and I would like to share my experience from my charter school education.
When a sixteen-year-old girl faces the option of going to get coffee with her friends or studying an extra hour for a chemistry test, it becomes difficult for her to feel like a normal teenager. One decision results in failing grades, but the other makes her a social outcast. I lost count of the times that people have said, “Oh, you go to a charter. I’m so sorry—you must have no life!” Their piteous attempts at consolation caused me to think that my school choice made me a work-obsessed hermit. I constantly tried to conceal my love for learning, because I did not want to be called a “nerd.” I could not defend against such criticism, because I did have unusual amounts of homework and even more unusual levels of stress compared to the average teenager. People often questioned my parents for allowing me to go through such mental strains that were not entirely necessary. I could be going to a traditional public school, getting higher grades, and still taking time to be a kid.
However, after reaching the end of this high school experience, I finally realized what a benefit having a charter school education has been. Having to manage hours of homework helped me learn how to organize my time more efficiently. Being challenged to move out of my comfort zone every day allowed me to develop better social skills and to better articulate myself. Although I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was sixteen, I learned how to not let my challenges affect my academic success. Since my school had fewer students, teachers knew my shy personality and were able to help me break out of my shell while still allowing me to be myself in class. My music teacher especially helped because he always encouraged me and inspired me to express my otherwise unexpressed emotions through music. I did not simply gain book knowledge from the work I completed over the years. I also gained a dedicated work ethic, a renewed self-confidence, and a path towards a bright future. This Fall, I will be attending George Fox University, where I will study both Accounting and Music Composition. I would not be where I am today without the skills I acquired from my charter school education.
The key to helping charter schools is showing parents and students that charter schools are not elitist prisons attempting to create cookie-cutter brainiacs. Charter schools point students towards a successful future. Although the homework sometimes got stressful, it allowed me to develop life skills that I would otherwise be left to figure out on my own in college. Because of the quality curriculum and devoted staff of my charter school, I not only became a better student but also a better person. I am so grateful for the education I received at my charter school, and I hope that many other students will have an opportunity for the same experience.
This month, thousands of high school students will graduate from charter schools across the county. We are so impressed by everything that these students have accomplished and can’t wait to see what the future holds. Check back here every day to see a new charter school graduate in our 30 Days of Grad series. Want to share your story? Join the conversation using #30DaysOfGrad.