The Panther’s class of 2016 says goodbye

First+row%3A+%28from+left+to+right%29+Victoria+Arguelles%2C+Sophie+Carrillo%2C+Claudia+Vera%2C+Megan+Martinez+and+Emily+Diez.+Second+row%3A+Sungho+Son%2C+Annabel+Sanz%2C+Samantha+Ganter%2C+Isabelle+Carbajales+and+Emma+Seckinger.+Third+row%3A+Keith+Richards+and+Shane+McCrink.+
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The Panther’s class of 2016 says goodbye

First row: (from left to right) Victoria Arguelles, Sophie Carrillo, Claudia Vera, Megan Martinez and Emily Diez. Second row: Sungho Son, Annabel Sanz, Samantha Ganter, Isabelle Carbajales and Emma Seckinger. Third row: Keith Richards and Shane McCrink.

First row: (from left to right) Victoria Arguelles, Sophie Carrillo, Claudia Vera, Megan Martinez and Emily Diez. Second row: Sungho Son, Annabel Sanz, Samantha Ganter, Isabelle Carbajales and Emma Seckinger. Third row: Keith Richards and Shane McCrink.

First row: (from left to right) Victoria Arguelles, Sophie Carrillo, Claudia Vera, Megan Martinez and Emily Diez. Second row: Sungho Son, Annabel Sanz, Samantha Ganter, Isabelle Carbajales and Emma Seckinger. Third row: Keith Richards and Shane McCrink.

First row: (from left to right) Victoria Arguelles, Sophie Carrillo, Claudia Vera, Megan Martinez and Emily Diez. Second row: Sungho Son, Annabel Sanz, Samantha Ganter, Isabelle Carbajales and Emma Seckinger. Third row: Keith Richards and Shane McCrink.

High school is a unique experience. Each day marks one step closer to a finish line that seems endlessly out of reach and through this tunnel vision, we lose sight of the journey. Every good grade, every long night, every new friend and every tear contributes to the high school experience we spend four years creating. Test by test, friend by friend, brick by brick we add moments to our lives that we can look back on years from now.

This is how I found myself (Isabelle Carbajales)

The first day of freshman year brought about a whirl of excitement and optimism that comes from fresh beginnings. I was under some preconceived notion that high school was just like “High School Musical.” I knew that there wouldn’t be people dancing on tables and that students wouldn’t just suddenly break out into song as the periods changed, but I anticipated an exciting and stimulating environment just the same – preferably with Zac Efron somewhere in the mix.

But then as my first day of high school came to a close, I was oddly disappointed. I hoped that it was just the stigma of the very first day, but I had a rude awakening when the weeks progressed and I hated it more and more. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and dreaded waking up so early to go to a place that I despised so much.

Amid countless absences and awkward visits with our school’s trust counselor, I realized that it wasn’t the school, my classes or my teachers: it was me. Even though it had only been a few months, I felt like every student had their high school path perfectly carved out for them. Meanwhile, I was lost. I joined clubs and sports teams, still finding myself at a loss.

But then, I found journalism. While journeying to finding my alcove within the tightly packed walls of Palmetto High, I realized that it had been there starting the first day of high school: my journalism 1 course. Having enjoyed reading the written word, as opposed to writing it myself, I overlooked the class – unaware that journalism would become the pinnacle of my high school career. As the year progressed, the search subsided and my truest self appeared in the form of articles and design projects.

After learning the basics of journalism freshman year, I was coerced by Mr. Panton to join one of our school’s journalism publications. I chose The Panther. Over the course of the next three years and 21 issues, I found my very own creative sanctuary.

Becoming a member of The Panther staff afforded me the ability to write without constraints, relinquish my creative inhibitions and find different aspects of myself. My hard work, dedication and most importantly, my passion allowed me to climb up the newspaper hierarchy, until I finally achieved the coveted position: Editor-in-Chief of The Panther. Throughout my tenure, my love for journalism transformed into a passion for leading others towards one unified goal.

Ideally, I would like to think I had a positive impact on The Panther. What I am certain about, though, is that The Panther changed me. I made best friends that will without a doubt last me a lifetime. I had a teacher who taught me far beyond the course curriculum and molded me into the person I am today. I found a passion in leading others. And most importantly, I found me.

For the freshmen who anxiously walks on the sidewalk on 118th street unsure of their place within Palmetto, for the student who sits in their Algebra class staring at the clock waiting for it to hit 2:20, for the anxious junior who feels like the stress is never ending, everything will fall into place in due time. While I never found my Zac Efron here at Palmetto, I did find the girl who I had always hoped to become, and for that I am eternally grateful.  

 

Joining the rejection club (Annabel Sanz)

I should probably start this off with a thank you to Coral Reef for rejecting me four years ago. I probably wouldn’t have said that then, because I couldn’t speak through the uncontrollable, unsightly tears or because the pain of not getting into my ‘dream school’ was just too much for my 14-year-old self to bear.

Okay, looking back, I’ll admit, this is kind of humiliating. I mean, come on Annabel, you got rejected from a high school, not Harvard. Still, the loss stung. Ironically though, not being an IB student at Coral Reef turned out to be the best thing I never had (sorry, I had to throw a Beyoncé reference in here).

I didn’t know it at the time, but this seemingly catastrophic rejection would set off a domino-effect chain of events that has molded a high school experience I am insurmountably grateful to have had. I don’t believe the cliché, “everything happens for a reason” trope, but I realize that when things do happen, good or bad, we create our own reasons in order to become the best versions of ourselves.

Truthfully, until I joined newspaper my sophomore year, I wasn’t exactly sure of who I was. It seemed as though everyone at Palmetto had his or her ‘thing’: a pivotal spot on the lacrosse team, a star position on history bowl or was class president; but I was lost in the very cliche way most freshmen are, always feeling like you are the only person whose life has no direction, an overarching theme of continuously trying to squeeze myself into roles I just didn’t fit into followed me since elementary school. Since I didn’t know who I was, I molded myself into who people around me were or what I thought I was expected to be.

In 5th grade when all of my friends got into acting, I did too even though I knew I could believably deliver a line as well as I could solve long division equations (not well- I would even say abysmally). Despite not being able to sing, act, dance or remotely do anything that Disney Channel stars could do, I auditioned for the drama program at Southwood. Unsurprisingly (and thankfully), I didn’t get in. Again, I can happily say that now but I cried for a week after opening the rejection letter.

Now that my Academy-Award-winning aspirations were behind me, I moved on to newer, equally unfitting interests. In middle school, I decided that I would be an academic, straight-A student. Instead of monologues, I read textbooks and found myself on countless Principal’s Honor rolls but it still felt like something wasn’t completely right. I did what most 14 year-olds do when something feels off and ignored it. Why ruin a good thing, right? So, naturally, being rejected for the IB program came as a shock and I refused to believe this was happening again. That was the last time I ever cried over a rejection.

Naturally, after this slew of devastating rejections, I didn’t exactly go into high school as the poster child for optimism. I had all but given up at that point because nothing I had tried to do worked out. I sulked my way through freshman year, hating almost every minute of it- except those spent in Room 911B during journalism 1. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that room and its teacher, would become the defining parts of my high school experience.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in high school, it’s that good grades and happiness don’t always go hand in hand.Maybe if I had spent more time studying tangents and cosines instead of looking of spreads in newspaper, I’d have a higher GPA; but I certainly wouldn’t be as happy or grateful.

I wholeheartedly believe that without newspaper, I would not be the person I am today and no amount of wrong fits or rejections could ever replace this experience.

 

Cheers to the (many) tears (Claudia Vera)

When I look back on high school, everything’s a blur; not because of the chaotic array of events, tests and experiences, but because my eyes were typically filled with stress-induced, everything’s-falling-apart-right-now tears. Yes, I will remember high school well when someone asks me about my experience in 30 years –“We laughed, we cried, I cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cr–.” Ironically, it’s this same sentiment that embodies the most important lesson I learned during my time as a Palmetto student; sometimes, you have to allow yourself to break down, to cry and scream and feel that weight of life. And that’s okay.

Throughout my entire high school experience, the increasing heaviness of my backpack seemed to mock the heavier weight that perpetually sat on my chest. Over the course of four years, my life became a broken record of “Calm down,” “You just need to relax,” and “At least it could be worse.” It seemed as if my sadness was constantly interrupted by a silver lining whose presence became more and more unwelcoming. I didn’t want to be consoled. I wanted happiness, yet it seemed like every force in the universe was pushing me in the opposite direction.

The funny thing about comfort lies in the fact that sometimes the more you receive it, the more suffocated you feel. With these attempts at sympathy coming from family and friends, I found myself ignoring, and eventually invalidating my own pain. Every tear, every flash of frustration, every streak of panic piled up inside of me in an effort to feign positivity. I reached a point in the middle of my junior year where hiding crippling anxiety was durable in exchange for avoiding awkward conversations where I am told to “look on the bright side.” From where I was standing, every side was pitch black, and I was stuck fumbling around in the dark.

My eventual realization of accepting sadness trickled through the cracks that had formed in my foundation over the years, slowly seeping into my psyche until it simply became common knowledge to me. For so long, I attempted to numb myself from feeling practically any emotion in an attempt to block out sadness. There was never a pinnacle moment in which it finally clicked for me. I didn’t shout “Eureka!” amidst my tears. Instead, I stopped viewing my moments of weakness as shameful, and began to embrace their cathartic nature.  

Yes, I spent a large amount of my high school years facing and fighting pain, sadness and loneliness head on. And yes, you’re right, it will get better, and this too shall pass, and so on and so forth. But the key to overcoming such trials of immense sadness lies in recognizing that its presence is not always a bad thing. Being human comes with a long list of terms and conditions, and people tend to skip over the section labeled “How Sadness Works.” Sometimes you have to sob in your shower while dramatically listening to Kelly Clarkson on repeat. Parking lots and bathroom stalls can act as a source of comfort to crying eyes. When people ask how you are doing, you are entitled to the luxury of saying “Not too great.” I now understand there will be days when I break down, shut off from the world and just allow myself to feel. With all of these seemingly exhaustive woes comes a relief in knowing that you are alive. You are aware. You are feeling. And most importantly, that you are allowed to not be okay.

 

Go ahead break the boundaries (Emma Seckinger)

I cannot begin to count how many times I’ve heard “I never knew you were so funny.” The “I always thought you were shy” grew old really fast. My all-time favorite, however, would have to be “I would never expect that from you.”

I used to wonder where people get the information to base their assumptions about me off of. It can’t possibly be from spending any time with me or what my friends have to say. When people say that I’m different than they expected, I want to know what made them expect anything in the first place. I understand that I’m not the most outgoing person and don’t open up to people after having one conversation. But I also know that everyone acts different outside of class than the way they do inside.

Not wanting to present a project or volunteer to read does not make me a quiet person. Doing my work when I was supposed to instead of socializing does not make me closed off. Preferring to listen to a teacher over interrupting a class discussion with my thoughts certainly does not make me any less capable of producing my own opinions.

Since so many of my peers expected me to be shy, I let them believe their preconceived notions rather than try to prove them wrong. I acted based off of the stereotypes my classmates had created for me instead of acting upon my own individual ambitions and desires. I became passive and unwilling to speak up out of embarrassment and the fear of being judged and still regret not raising my hand every time I knew an answer to a problem or wanted to ask a burning question.

Throughout my four years of high school, I have gained the confidence to be comfortable in my own skin. I finally realized that I alone am responsible for how I perceive myself. I no longer feel the need to constrain myself to please others, because I’ve wasted enough time conforming to what others want and expect from me. As soon as I stopped caring about other people’s opinions, I started to enjoy high school a lot more. My senior year has been filled with so many amazing memories that even last year would never have happened because I feared failure. I’ve made more friends and feel less pressure on myself to be a spitting image of perfection.

Although perception is reality, don’t let that categorize you into a box that makes it impossible to branch out from. If you want to be the captain of the lacrosse team and senior class president, do it. If you want to have a place in the top five percent and the Silver Knight nominee for athletics, it can be done. If you want to have a major role for the school newspaper and still go out on the weekends, go for it. Never let someone else stop you from accomplishing what you can achieve; only you know what you’re truly capable of.

A lot of what I have accomplished would never have happened without my friends and teachers at Palmetto. While many dread going to school, I enjoy having the opportunity to learn every day and being part of such a tight-knit community. Because of this, I took advantage of the unparalleled opportunities that Palmetto offers. Through my involvement in the school, I was able to change the way people see me.

Even though I know for fact that I have changed, some labels are impossible to shed. Maybe I will always be known as “the quiet one.” But how other people see me is different than how I see myself and I finally refuse to let boundaries limit my potential.

 

Don’t be afraid to fall (Victoria Arguelles)

Three years, nine months and 14 days ago, I still had braces. I didn’t know what high school was or who I would become. I knew I was on the brink of something wildly different and knew, but that didn’t really matter to me at the time.

I did what came naturally. I continued the extra curriculars in in middle school: drama and student government. In the latter part of my freshman year, though, I surprised myself by applying to be on the newspaper staff. A week after my impromptu interview, I was put on staff. What I didn’t know, though, was that I had just become part of something that would help me figure out what I was born to do, and that I had just found a group of people who would care for me unconditionally.

Most of the other staff members my age on had journalistic experience, but I didn’t. I was intimidated by the talent around me. Luckily, with every assigned task that seemed impossible, there was an “I believe in you” attached. And because someone believed in me, I made the impossible possible, to my own surprise.

I found myself at a crossroads in my junior year, torn between wanting to invest myself in leadership positions in student council and newspaper. I wanted to be student council president since I was elected freshman class president, but I lost the presidency junior year, which I didn’t think I could bear again. I also wanted to be editor-in-chief of The Panther, but I would be going up against four of my closest friends.

I emotionally and physically invested myself in both. When I wasn’t campaigning, I was working on my editor-in-chief application, struggling to make deadlines as a section editor, and not sleeping. Before I had time to worry about being put in the same student council position as the year before, I was in it again; I didn’t win the election. Two weeks after that, I was appointed as the online managing editor of The Panther, not editor-in-chief.

I was embarrassed and disgusted with myself, because I felt responsible for putting myself in such vulnerable positions. I was told that it “wasn’t the end of the world” so many times before, that it started to feel more and more artificial each time I heard it. It wasn’t the end of the world, but not getting either position felt like a rug had been ripped out from under me, leaving me on the cold floor of reality.

Then several hands reached out to me to pick me up off of that floor. I had forgotten that the organizations I had joined consisted of people who loved me and wanted me to reach my full potential.

Looking back now, I have few things to say other than this: failure is possibly the best thing that happened to me. Cliché, I know. But I found where I belonged in high school, with people who legitimately wanted the best for me and knew what I needed, even though it may not have been what I wanted.

When I shake Mrs. Dobbs’s hand and receive my diploma. I will graduate a more wise, humble version of myself I could’ve never imagined I’d become. I will be graduating with all of those who have picked me up when I’ve fallen, and all of those I’ve picked up when they’ve done the same. Falling is a part of growing up. But no matter where, when or how you fall, there will always be someone there to pick you up.

 

The change that changed me (Samantha Ganter)

The certainty of change is, quite often, the only constant factor in our lives. From our first breath to the mystery of tomorrow, our surroundings transform faster than we can keep up with, sometimes thrusting us beyond our place of comfort. High school epitomized the most transformative time of my life thus far. In 8th grade, my dad approached me with the nausea-inducing news that my family would be relocating to Miami from Jupiter at the end of the summer. While the move would take me only two hours away from home, the change that would follow brought me to a place in my life that was not only terrifying but, in hindsight, also massively gratifying.

The next four years of my life included more variables than I ever saw in calculus class and they were certainly more difficult to decipher. I found myself floating between groups of friends each year and I struggled to find the ones who made me feel at home in a place that still felt foreign to me. With each group I identified with, my style and antics changed and my views transformed with the new perspectives they introduced to me. I fell in and out of love with others and back in love but with myself. Each new stage humbled me with the reality that the present and the future could never return to the warmth of past, with good reason. I am in no way saying that the past needs to be abandoned and left to collect dust in your mind. The past includes all of the experiences that shape us into the people we are now and without the pain and joy of our former selves, we would never grow and mature emotionally.

Four years later, as I prepare to call New Orleans my home, I finally settled into place and found the people who brought me back to a place in my life that feels like home. While it does hurt to come to the sobering realization that I will eventually leave most of them behind in wrinkled memories, I feel endlessly grateful for the love they have all shown me and for finally exposing the girl who I had been searching for during the past four years. To those who have already nestled into the corners of my memory and to the losses that I have already mourned, thank you for being a part of the journey that brought me to myself. Having endured a lifetime of change in four short years I have a newfound sense of confidence that has prepared me to evolve with whatever my new adventure brings.

So yes, change is utterly terrifying. You will want to recede into your comfort zone; your stomach will twist with fear and uncertainty; and sometimes you will think the pain was for nothing. But like Paulo Coelho said in “The Alchemist”: “A shepherd always takes his chances with wolves and with drought, and that’s what makes a shepherd’s life exciting.” Face your drought, and fight your wolves. Plunge into the unknown and embrace the inevitable fear that will ensue. Let that fear drive you to chase the infinite horizon of opportunity that the world has to offer. After four years of being a Palmetto student, I am prepared to expand my horizons, experience new things and relish in all the changes that come my way.

 

Plans change and that’s okay (Sophie Carrillo)

Most people come into high school with their next four years meticulously mapped out. I would know– I was one of them. I always pictured myself dancing for Variations, but my failure to make the team led to a passion I would have never considered otherwise. At the end of my sophomore year, my friend Emma urged me to apply for newspaper. This unexpected turn of events was the first time I fully embraced change in my life.

The familial atmosphere radiating throughout room 911b is like no other. Being surrounded by a group of people who all share a common goal- creating the highest quality publication possible- proved to be the most rewarding experience of my high school career. I fell in love with the design aspect of the production process immediately. As Marc Anthony once said, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I found myself looking forward to staying after to design my pages, without worrying about how it would affect my grade. I found myself mentally deconstructing billboards, magazine layouts and any graphics in my daily life to envision how I could use them as inspiration for my design. I found myself with a second family, and a new passion that I want to build on for the remainder of my life. Prior to my involvement in newspaper, ‘creative’ would not have been a word used to describe me; now, it’s one of the first that comes to mind.

Change can occur in the simplest forms. It does not always have to be centered on a single dramatic event. For obvious reasons, most people reject change. People fight the idea of change so much that oftentimes the fight ends up changing them. As a middle schooler, I stubbornly believed that I would defy the odds and finish high school with the same friends I started it with.  In hindsight, I am pleasantly surprised by how wrong I was. Four months into my freshman year, reality hit me. I found myself with an entirely new group of friends after being molded into a version of myself that everyone seemed to accept but me. I used to be someone who would seek validation from my peers instead of intrinsically. I turned to gossiping in order to fit in with the petty middle school clique, and formed opinions on people based on what I heard about them in the hallways. My past four years at Palmetto have taught me not to fall into my old ways. The distorted perception I had on what a true friendship consisted of proved to be completely wrong; my thoughts on friendship were completely redefined.

In the moment, change may disguise itself as an obstacle; in reality, it has the potential to lead you to exactly where you need to be. You will uncover new passions and new experiences. You will end up exactly where you are supposed to. As I prepare to begin a new chapter in my life that holds the most change I have encountered to date, I urge you to stop fearing change. Instead, be the proponent of innovation and change within your own life. Progress is impossible without change. You may lose something good in the process, but it holds the potential to lead to something better. Florida State University, I can’t wait for what you have in store for me. After 14 years of being a Palmetto student, I am prepared to expand my horizons, experience new things, and relish in all the changes that come my way.

 

Go your own way (Shane McCrink)

Throughout my tenure as a Palmetto Panther, I thought high school was a waste sometimes. Looking back, entering high school was a major adjustment.  A class with a college curriculum like AP World History was not easy to keep up with as a freshman. Document based questions and taking notes from the textbook nightly to prepare for discussion in class the next day was an unforeseen experience.

I played baseball and was sidelined when I injured the ulnar collateral ligament in my throwing elbow. I went through therapy for four months. The injury and the academic adjustment was the most adversity I had been through at that point in my life. The adversity forced me to grow as a young adult.

After freshman year, I decided to change my perspective on high school. I did not want to think of it as a daunting or overwhelming task, but instead a learning experience where I discovered myself and took advantage of its opportunities. In my sophomore year, I decided to join The Panther. In newspaper, I have met a diverse group of people from different grades, backgrounds and perspectives that widened my perspective. It helped me keep an open mind,  something I suggest all people have in high school. I learned not only about myself, but about others.

I also learned in high school that there are two kinds of people: the ones who try to fit in and the ones who do their own thing. I fit into the latter. Why would I ever try to be something other than me? I recognized that caring about what other people think of me wastes energy not worth wasting that could be used studying for AP classes, saying no to drugs or just flat out bettering yourself. I learned that most of the popular kids in high school were hitting their peaks in life and that mine was still in the works.

It is important to surround yourself with people worth your time. People that accept you and have similar goals and aspirations are critical to experiencing high school. Those who pressure you to do negative things or compromise who you are as an individual are not friends. Surrounding yourself with ambitious people like yourself will challenge you academically and motivate you to be the best that you can be.

As senior year comes to a close, I have met some people over the last few months that I wish I met earlier on in high school. To current underclassmen, get out and meet new people; explore outside of your niche. These four years are about meeting new people that can help you discover new interests and backgrounds. You can learn something from each person you meet, whether they have done something unbelievably brilliant or something astonishingly ignorant. Depending on what you learn it can impact your life positively and help you advance in your development as a human being.

Most importantly, go your own way. There will always be someone better in some aspects of life than you are, but in the end they will never be you. Stay true to yourself by being you. Everything you’re not makes you everything you are.

 

The search for improvement (Keith Richards)

My four years at Miami Palmetto Senior High School can only be defined as a spiral downward in an attempt to find myself. I bounced between basketball to writing to philosophy to journalism without any real idea about the inner workings of any of them.

Sometimes when I look back at all of these things I feel tempted to just say that I wasted my time pursuing any of them, because they would never amount to what I want to do for the rest of my life; I have no desire to play college basketball, write the next great American novel, do whatever philosophy majors do, nor win a Pulitzer.

Yet in retrospect, I regret none of these decisions. I learned a lot along the way through doing each thing. Basketball taught me how to work with other people in situations that require quick thinking. Writing taught me how to express myself. Philosophy taught me how to reason. Journalism taught me how to construct a point both objectively and with sufficient evidence in a coherent way. All of these things will help me for the rest of my life, both professionally and personally.

There is this unfortunate stigma that we need to put our minds to what we want to do for the rest of our lives and stick with only that – well before we can even vote. It is not uncommon for people to declare that they knew what they want to do not only in college but also for a career as early as freshman year. Everyone applies to that prestigious summer program that some Ivy League school charges an exorbitant fee to attend, only to eventually find out that whatever it was they wanted to do actually does not interest them.

At that point, it becomes almost too easy to just scrap the idea and say both time and money were wasted. But neither of those thoughts are true.

Learning more about yourself through high school ultimately defines who you will become later in life. These experiences mold your world view and fundamentally change the way you see things. It is better to start back at square one than to have never left it at all; at least now you bring some new lesson to the table that you can draw from for your next major life decision.

Every teenager has a fragile sense of pride. Even the most laid back person has some button that they never want pressed. Many people try to avoid making any mistakes – regardless of how small – to prevent their ego from being remotely damaged. But mistakes make us human.

Mistakes teach us far better than any textbook, novel or TV show. Experiencing life and stumbling along is the only true way to understand ourselves and the world around us.

Maybe your last breakup really hurt you. That is completely okay. Maybe you made a stupid decision and now your parents are upset. That is completely okay. Maybe you have no idea where you want to end up in ten years. That is completely okay.

High school is an environment that allows us to experiment with ourselves. We can dye our hair, try a new style, ask out that girl in Government class and so many other things. It is the one time in our life to make mistakes and still have the safety net of our parents to catch us if we fall. It would be a waste to never even take a plunge down and see where you end up.

 

Transformation through an unfavorable situation (Megan Martinez)

Plaid skirts, Thursday ballet classes and weekly Friday masses were the three most defining elements of my childhood. Everyone wore the same clothes and, coincidentally, seemed to have the same personalities. If parents were friends, their daughters were destined to be friends as well. Friday masses manifested the routine religion taught in Catholic school. This was my life for 12 years and I knew nothing different.

A week before my sophomore year started, my family made the decision that attending a public school would be best for my academic career. I had never been to a school with more than 200 people in my grade and my transition from a boutiquey Catholic high school in Coconut Grove to a suffocatingly large public school was a far cry from easy. I regretted this decision most of my time here.

Although I lost connections with most of my friends, I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. I learned that people who grew up in public school can be much more genuine than people who grew up in a school heavily influenced by Christian principles. I learned that not everyone will like me, not everyone wants to be my friend and not everyone has good intentions for me. I reestablished a stronger relationship with my faith. Believe it or not, sometimes one has to be separated from something to fully appreciate its beauty.

Most importantly, I discovered that if they want to, people can stay in your life no matter the circumstances. Thank you to my best friend for standing by me even through the transition while we lived on opposite sides of Miami. She walked into my life when everyone else seemed to walk out. Thank you to my mother for holding my hand through my bumpy transition and reminding me that my duration in Palmetto is temporary. Thank you to my father for making me stay at Palmetto when I almost transferred back my junior year. If I had returned to my previous school, I would have never learned to embrace unfavorable situations.

 

Scores are but a number (Emily Diez)

The first day of my freshman year at Palmetto, I wore a new long sleeve school gray shirt, an outfit I had planned from my three color options of blue, white and gray, and lingered next to the few people I knew in the humid Miami heat. It felt disgusting, but I didn’t care because I was eager to start my new future as a Panther. Quite quickly, however, I felt the weight of the competitive environment surrounding me.

I questioned why I didn’t take two APs instead of one my freshman year. I felt guilt for taking two APs as opposed to three sophomore year when I had the opportunity to do so. I stopped taking drama junior year because I didn’t want to take another regular credit class that wouldn’t pad my resume. I studied inaccurate graphs of my potential to get into certain colleges. I probably joined a total of 14 clubs and tried out for three sports teams, only making the bowling team (and I am by no means athletic). But the reality is, none of it really mattered.

Unless you are still obsessing about what schools you did not get into by the end of senior year, believe me, most people will not care about your SAT or ACT score senior year. And no one in college will care that you did not pass some AP test or that you got a C on your report card. I know it seems consuming now, but as shocking as it sounds, there will come a time when you don’t think about it every day.

No one can make you feel less than you are. Whether you take 20 APs or all regular classes, whether you have perfect or failing test scores, none of these things define you. The most valuable things you have are your moral values, your goals, your ambition and your drive. If you have a perfect academic record but make fun of kids going to community college, does that really make you a better person?

You may or may not have the most golden grades or extracurriculars, but in the end, it is up to you to decide what person you want to be and what defines you. No set of numbers can define that.

 

Victory through sacrifice (Sungho Son)

As a huge procrastinator, I always relied on the last few minutes to study for a test or to submit an assignment on turnitin.com; but senior year does not work the same way as all the other years of high school.

College applications must adhere to each specific deadline. Financial aid and scholarships also take up space on your calendar with their own deadlines. It may sound simple at first but if I prioritized schoolwork and still procrastinated, it would have left me a fraction of a second to get any applications done. I would have nearly lost my mind and made my last year the most dreadful out of all four from the stress.

When I stopped binge watching Netflix and spending hours clicking through YouTube videos, I had enough time to sail through senior year smoothly. With all the rigorous courses, studying for tests and getting ready in the morning with only three hours of sleep became just another weekly activity.

When all the stress flows in from the excessive amount of homework and exams, it is easy to just surrender. As the year goes on, our ambition to strive for straight A’s diminishes to getting no D’s. Yet for a small sacrifice of time and sanity, we can land our hands on the college acceptance letter of our dreams. As a bonus, we carry over invaluable skills like time management and responsibility.

Every opportunity comes with a cost. The payment may come in intangible forms like time and commitment. We spend 18,144,000 seconds within the walls of columbia blue and white and each second determines where we will end up in the adult world. Yet, if we do not focus on failures or cling to past attachments, and rather, tackle new challenges and keep on moving despite the stress and fatigue, victory stands on the back of sacrifice.

 

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