In June of 1994 I graduated 8th grade from St. Thomas Aquinas school. I know it was bittersweet for some to part with old friends and a familiar place. I don’t recall feeling much emotion about ending my time there however. I was anxious though about going from a familiar and relatively small private school to a huge and utterly unknown public high school. As I had heard many stories through word of mouth over the years about the reputation of public school, my main worry was that I would be picked on and have to defend myself by fighting. I did not want to have to deal with bullies or have to physically defend myself.
Since my birthday is at the end of the calendar year, I entered James Madison High School at the age of 13 in September 1994. It was ok. I was certainly a bit shocked by the sheer numbers of kids assembled as a crowd in front of the school and in the hallways. I met a familiar neighborhood kid on the first or second day and it was a comfort to know somebody. We did not remain friends of any substance though. The first few months were spent getting a feel for being in this strange new environment. I was slow to make new friends and my self-defense was to keep to myself with a mild scowl on my face. This strategy proved great for keeping people away, but not for attracting new friends (except for weird folk like myself who saw through my defense).
A bigger concern to me, than the potential dangers of being a freshman in high school however, was the relationship between my brother and some of the new older kids hanging out on our block. As my freshman schedule had me returning from school later in the afternoon than some others, I was often worried that my brother would be getting into a scrape with some of the neighborhood bullies who were hanging around at this time. I remember pumping myself up to be ready to fight if I had to defend my brother from these jerks. I’m sure there were more than a couple times that words were exchanged and a tense atmosphere developed. I don’t recall any specific blowouts in detail, but I remember this anxiety that I carried with me at that time and how unpleasant it was.
It did take me some time to get used to the crowds of new people, the new sights and smells, my whereabouts in the building and many other things. All things considered however I was liking my new public high school more so than my previous private elementary/junior high school. I found St. Thomas Aquinas to be very dull for several reasons. The student population seemed to encompass all of 2-3 basic ethnic varieties. There was a homogeneity that really gave everything a sort of bland flavor. While I do appreciate my time there and do not want to sound unappreciative for my father and mother’s efforts in finding a way to provide for my private education all those years, my genuine feeling was one of going bigger and better when I began to attend the public high school James Madison.