Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Choosing a high school

As I reached 7th grade, I wasn't sure what my parent's plans were for high school.  I knew money was getting tighter as my parents went back to school, and they now had 4 of us in Catholic school.  I half expected them to switch me to the public schools after I graduated from St. Mary's.

My mother did that, she went to a Catholic primary school and then to Hamilton Southeastern High School.  One of her brothers was chosen to attend a Catholic high school.  I wonder, now, if that influenced her.  If Mom wanted me to have an opportunity that she was denied.  I know sometimes I want that for my son.

My parents asked for my input.  If I were to go to a Catholic school, where did I want to go?

Junior high was when the Omaha Catholic high schools made recruiting trips, coming to visit and tell us about their schools.  Cathedral and Gross were co-ed, so I think they mostly talked to the 8th graders.  But Mount Michael and Creighton Prep were all-boys, and Duchesne and Mercy were all-girls.  Those schools would usually pair up, and the 7th and 8th graders would all be split by gender to talk with the recruiters and high school visitors.  There were a few others, that nobody I knew attended.  I think Cathedral has since closed, and a new high school was built, but this gets across the major options.

 The closest school to Bellevue was Gross, and most of our classmates either went there, or to the public high schools.  Duchesne and Mercy were about 30 minutes away from Bellevue.

Mount Michael was the only boarding school, but since it was a boy's school, it didn't matter to me.


In 7th grade, a friend and I took a tour of Duchesne together.  We were assigned different Freshmen as tour guides, but we traveled together.  If you look at the pictures, the carpets, artwork, and ornateness of Glee's Dalton Academy, remind me of Duchesne.  I had a wonderful day on campus, even participating in diagramming sentences for her English class.  I told my parents that Duchesne where I wanted to go, and for the next year I prayed that I could do that.

My parents started looking at what it would cost to make that happen.  They asked me to keep my options open, so I remember also spending a day at Cathedral.    Then they heard about Mercy's Negotiated Tuition program, and in the 8th grade they persuaded me to spend a day at Mercy.  So I did.  The school is simple, a square brick building.  No carpeting inside, just tile and lockers.  Not a lot of artwork, fancy woodwork like Duchesne.  But the students were different, too.  At Mercy, the other girls asked ME what my name was.  At Duchesne, I realized, they had asked my tour guide.  It was more personal, more friendly, and I fell in love.

My parents asked me to write out my reasons, my pro/con list for the two schools.  We convinced each other that Mercy was the right place, and they offered me a deal.  If I earned a scholarship, I could attend Mercy.  They would accept any level of scholarship.
The academic placement test was in January.  At the time, all the Omaha Catholic high schools offered testing on a single day. Schools only offered scholarships to students who took the placement test at their location.  I took it at Mercy, and I didn't think it was too bad.

A few months later, our 8th grade class had visitors.  Not only had I earned a scholarship.  I had earned the Catherine McAuley scholarship, the highest scholarship the school offered.  I don't think St. Mary's had had any high school scholarship recipients in several years, and suddenly they had two.

(I know it's a bad photo, but it's all I have.  Mom came & took the picture, I'm not sure what film she used but I know the camera was very basic.)

Yes, two.  One of the boys earned a scholarship to Creighton Prep.  There were only about 21 of us in 8th grade together, 14 boys and 7 girls.  He went to Creighton Prep, I went to Mercy, the friend went to Duchesne (they had a ballet program, Mercy didn't bring in a dance instructor until my Sophomore year).  Another guy went to Mount Michael, I think the rest split between Gross and the public schools.

And that's how I ended up in a Liberal Arts high school.