Last First Day of School

It’s my senior year of college and even though I’ve been in Indiana for five school years, I genuinely am still not used to going back in August. Granted, September is just the other bookend of the week, but it’s more the notion of going back to school when it’s still 90 degrees and humid. It’s still the essence of August – it just seems wrong.

Schools differ greatly from state to state, but from the Finger Lakes Region to the Midwest was drastic for me.

What lured me out of New York, aside from the promise of new adventures and excellent corn, was that I wouldn’t have to take NYS regents exams. Don’t get me wrong, I always studied hard and did very well on them, but the notion of a pass or fail, credit earned or not, exam is enough to give even the best students some jitters.

What I didn’t realize was that most schools in this region of Indiana treat every AP-level test as a regents test. At least at the high school I finished up with here, that test anxiety I saw solely during regents time was evenly spread out across the entire year. Competition in the Midwest high schools is intense.

That might have something to do with the size differences and populations of the schools though. In the Finger Lakes Region – which I often describe as a honeycomb of little towns – the schools are considerably smaller. I’ve talked about community a lot in these blogs. I’ll mention it again here: with smaller communities it’s a much more connected group of students.

To me it seemed that arts programs were much more encouraged, sports were for everyone, and fundraisers had conceivable goals. Locals might not have made it out to any games except Homecoming, but they followed the scores in the daily paper. Students often made the daily paper for one extraordinary thing or another – and not just for extraordinary performance in scholarship-earning sports.

In fact, I still have a clipping back from first grade when my friends and I wrote letters to the president about how to bring about world peace. The school newsletter told the entire community who made the Honor Roll that year and who had logged incredible volunteering hours. You could actually see people reading the newsletters in diners around town.

I know that one person’s experience doesn’t sum up an entire state’s Department of Education, nor is it necessarily the same as anyone else who has done the same transition. However, when I reflect on 16 years’ worth of first days of school, the ones from good ‘ol Dansville are some of my favorite

And don’t tell the Hoosiers, but I think New York sweet corn is better.

Halie Solea 2013By Halie Solea

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