Class Eight Reflections

Each year Class Eight students compose speeches, which are a reflection of their time at The Wilberforce School. The younger students, as well as the teachers, love hearing how each middle school student has grown and changed during their time at Wilberforce. We hope you will enjoy reading them as much as we have.

Abby Readlinger
From the time I first stepped into this room to where I am speaking here before you, I have progressed and changed in about every way imaginable. Through my time at Wilberforce I have grown in faith and skills, but most of all I have grown in a community, who always puts others first. First is a word I come across multiple times when looking back on Wilberforce memories. It was the first time first was never cruel and the memories were never when somebody pushed themselves to be first in line. First was a feeling that brought joy into my day, first was an accomplishment set from a goal, and it is no coincidence that the majority of my firsts were here in Wilberforce.

Why was there such a dramatic change in my life when I came here? Why were my firsts steadily climbing as each year progressed? The answer is so simple and yet so complex. The environment here at Wilberforce focuses on what is most important, most virtuous, and most academically best for each and every student. Whether, that student needs extra help or is facing difficulties, the teachers truly show they want to help to the bets of their ability, they want to see you grow and learn. I remember sitting through chapel speeches and presentations hearing all about this amazing community. We both have and will hear this again, over and over again, but the reason it is repeated so much is because it is so true. Every day I hear teachers talk about community. However, what is a saying about community if it is never acted out? Many schools have mottos just to have them, but they don't do anything. But, that was one of the first things that struck me.
Wow! This school actually lives out and fulfills their motto to the fullest!!

When I entered this room in fourth grade, I was shocked to see that for the first time there was only fifteen students in my class, and their wasn’t even another class in the grade! I was assigned a buddy to show me around the school, and on that first day of school I was included in this community. In fourth grade my little class of fifteen led Pickett's charge and helped the wounded up by carrying them on a sweater. In fifth grade my little class of fifteen had grown to seventeen students and in that year air conditioners had flown out of windows, struggles had been made to pull people up hills because of a lost trail. In sixth grade, some had left and some had came but the number remained seventeen. In sixth grade on the Washington D.C. trip I got sick and couldn’t make it to the Capitol building. My friends had known that at very historic landmark I had stopped and bought an engraved penny. When the trip was over and school resumed the following week, a couple of them presented with me an engraved penny from the Capitol building. That day was the first day I realized what the old saying “it's the thought that matters” truly meant. If anyone had told me that one day I would be truly happy with a squished penny worth 51 cents, with a blurry picture of the Capitol building, I would have said they were crazy. Yet, it was true. Last year, in seventh grade our class still had not changed. That year we were locked in a room and used our problem solving and community to try and escape. Now my class has grown to a large eighteen students, and I am looking forward to the memories I will have in this year to come.

Through all the activities at Wilberforce they display what our team cares about. We pray before and after games and practices whether we won or lost. Everything we do is for God’s glory and not for praise. In sports every player understands that the reasons they dribble, swim, cradle, sprint, and kick, is for God’s glory. Athletics also bring people closer together in community which Wilberforce is all about. Through athletics I have made friends not only younger and older than me, but in lower school and in upper school. Sometimes, in athletics there seems like their is no separations between grades. We play against each other and with each other, there is no line that is drawn between us, we are one. In debate, I have seen the true personalities of my friends revealed as they strongly oppose or agree with one side or another. In the beginning this used to draw lines between our friendship, but we all have grown to see that we should respect other people's opinions in school and in life. Although this is my first year in the musical I can already tell that everyone tries their best and wants everyone else to do the same. Through all activities, there is clear message that you should try your best and do your best for God.

The word first has many meanings. Whether consecutive order, the beginning, or in the Bible when it says the first shall be last and the last shall be first, first will always hold a place in my Wilberforce memories. Thank You, for being part of the community I am so proud to be part of.

Anneka Steen
All my life, I have loved writing. By age six, I had already mastered the short story. “Squerls, by Anneka Steen. Squerls ar fast. I love sqrls.” Let’s just say that I hadn’t mastered spelling at that time. This masterpiece was made of three whole sticky-notes with drawings of squirrels on them. As I have grown older, I have written more and more stories, from ones about cat-bats all the way up to ones set in my own imaginary worlds.

When I was three or four, I loved cats. I still do. I loved cats so much that I invented my own type of cat: cat-bats. Cat-bats were basically cats with wings. I liked to write stories about cat-bats and draw pictures of them all over. I was also making abstract stories at that age: for example, The Cat that Could Talk (written The Cat thit Kuod Tok). Many people have jokingly said that if cats could talk, they wouldn’t, because they are so lazy. Therefore, my book The Cat that Could Talk was completely blank except for the title. (Just kidding; I probably just decided not to write anything else in the book). I wrote and drew many other little picture books as well, but after a while, I became less interested in cats and moved on to other things.

When I was in Class Three, my older brother began to draw unicorns on his papers as a joke with his friends. These unicorns had pig noses, stick-like tails, and striped horns. They were all numbered and part of the Acme Intergalactic Unicorn Transportation Company. I admired my brother’s drawings greatly, so I drew unicorns as well. He came up with almost all of the funny stories and ideas about groups of dragon-fighting unicorns, the always-hungry good dragon named Ror, and Gassy Unicorn, the ridiculous talk show host unicorn (“I’m Gassy Unicarn!”). I never really came up with my own unicorn ideas, but as we grew older and out of the unicorn age, he entrusted me with The Notebook of Unicorns. I still have it somewhere.

My brother also introduced me to the idea of dragons, and I did think of my own dragon stories with my friends. I liked to imagine worlds where dragons ruled the skies and seas, and where people had super powers. However, I could never stay focused on one idea for long enough to write anything. My imagination went from dragons to people to other people, then back to cats again. Then there were dragons that were not dragons and never would be called dragons, and people that were not people and would never be called people, and cats that were not cats - but they were not bats, either, this time. They were butterflies. I went through imaginary world after imaginary world, searching for the perfect story, but never really finding something that satisfied me. I wrote and thought more and more, completely obsessed with this search for something that I would always like. Then, only last year, it suddenly hit me so hard that it knocked me down. Maybe my writing was never going to fill up that empty space inside me. Maybe I would never ever be able to focus on a story for long. Maybe it was God that I should be trying to focus on instead. For a glorious day and a half, I was completely free, before I felt that longing to write again.

Over time, through my ideas, my starts and my stops, I got more practice with writing, and slowly improved. I still can’t stick with an idea long enough to write much of it, and I still sometimes turn away from God and chase down an idea before I suddenly give up on it and go search for something else. But now it’s different. When I felt that longing to write again last year, . I did write. I kept on writing, but now I knew that I had something else that would fill me up. I knew that God was always there, watching me and loving me and bringing me back to him.

Bryan Hsieh
Nine-nine per cent of people are not willing to do what it takes to make their dreams come true, but you don’t have to join them. What you can do to overcome their frustrated fate is to have self-discipline. Self-discipline involves teaching yourself to do something that is in your best interest whether or not you like it. You must set a goal for yourself. Everyday we are making choices that are actually not in our best interest. For example, we all say that we want to be perfect, but we aren’t trying hard enough to reach that goal. Your mindset is what is going either to hinder you or to enable you to achieve your dreams.

Self-discipline is a key of many types of success. Will Smith said, “You cannot win the war against the world, if you cannot win the war against your own mind.” Your mindset is what is going to stop you from achieving your dreams. If you don’t love yourself first, ultimately you cannot love anything else. So, if you want to achieve that A in math, you must change your attitude. Another related issue is insecurity about yourself: if you let someone else put you down you bring that pain in your heart. Your mind tells you that you cannot do what you love just because other people’s opinions are negatively determining how you feel. Your heart, your life, and your happiness are not only your responsibility but also they are critical to achieving the standards you seek. Look at your friends around you for a moment and ask yourself, “Is that person keeping me away from my goals, or is this person helping me achieve what I want for myself?

The community around you matters! And here at The Wilberforce School we have the community designee to build up, not to break down. Never in my seven years here at this school have I seen anyone telling another person that he or she is not worthy of achieving the best.

Let me give you an example of how to achieve a goal when you have the right mindset. You don’t set out to build a house, you don’t tell yourself, “ I’m going to build the biggest ‘baddest’ house on the planet.” No, you do not want to start there. Instead, you tell yourself, “I’m going to lay each brick down so perfectly that no one in the whole wide world can copy me, because my work will be so perfect.” Tell yourself that while you do your homework, while you are at the gym working out, or even while you are doing house chores. If every single day you lay a brick down telling yourself it’s going to be straight and that it’s going to be perfect, then one day the house that you said will be the envisioned.

To achieve any goal you must give the task 110%, and anything that you students hate doing you must still attack, you must overcome the fear and hatred of doing this activity. When I was writing this speech I waited for about one month until I got up and I told myself to finish what I had started. Then, on that very week, I finished this speech.

A lot of us aren’t good at some subjects in school, whether it be math, science, Latin, or Composition. The things we aren’t good at become our enemy, because we become fearful of them. Now, what are you scared of? You must move away from the “comfortable”; you must overcome your hesitancy. So lay one brick down in your everyday; improve each day. Tell yourself to get out of bed, go to school with enthusiasm. Overcome that subject that scared you, and finish strong with what you started. A lot of us don’t know this, but we are actually stronger than we think we are only if we believe, only with the attitude. I want to tell you this: people with wisdom do not give up; they do no allows laziness to “get the best of them.” So don’t be a straggler; instead be the one that is at the top.

My mother told me that if I wanted to earn good grades, I must change my attitude towards learning. She said, “I don’t care if you get a low grade in the subjects that you learn, all I care is that your are giving your 110% to your work.” Even the teachers here say similar things, but that doesn’t mean you can leave work behind and fake that you are giving 110%. If you want your dreams to come true, you must honestly commit. The teachers here not only want you to improve better at your academics, they also want you to draw closer to God while you continue learning.

So I encourage you to step out starting today and lay those bricks down, one right after another, and don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love. Discipline yourself so that you become part of the 1% (not the 99%) and so achieve your dreams. This is why choosing a life of self-discipline is the key to success.

Georgie Pandolfo
“Kathryn! You just dropped the air conditioning unit out of the window!” This is one of my many incredible memories I have been able to make during my four years here at The Wilberforce School. I came to the school in Class 5, and I assure you, this school is like no other. At Wilberforce, it’s not just about the final grade you receive on your report card, it’s about developing yourself as a person. I believe my teachers and friends have definitely helped me achieve that growth.

The community here at Wilberforce is incredible. I have made many friends with students throughout the entire school; from Class Four to Grade 12. Some of them, I have met on the soccer field, the basketball court, in house competitions or just in the halls. Here, in this small community, it’s easy to know almost everyone. Not only is the student community amazing, so is the teacher-to student bond. Many teachers participate in house competitions and some, such as Mrs. Vardeman and Mr. Hailstone, I am proud to call my fellow More house members. During the middle-upper school retreat, I was able to get to know the new sixth graders as well as new teachers to the school. It also provided a time to become closer with some of my Class 8 friends., (Trust me staying in a cabin with 8 other girls is not easy.) I believe the community here at Wilberforce has allowed me to come out of my shell a bit more than I was used to before, and I think that has helped me become a better person.

Faith: it’s one of the first things you hear about this school once you visit. It’s what this school's roots are set in. Wilberforce is a place you can grow in your faith, and I believe I have. Every morning we have morning prayer and bible class; however, just because we learn about God doesn’t mean we grow closer to him. We not only pray, we live our faith. We show it with the way we live. At Wilberforce, we live in a Christian community; we serve others with our service projects, house service, and our everyday lives. Whether it’s when a teacher drops their coffee in the hall, or a student who drops their stuff, we can show one another that we are brothers and sisters in Christ by helping those people.

Sports are a huge part of my life, and sports have taught me life lessons. When I came to Wilberforce in Class Five, I was on the soccer and basketball teams. I felt like the “little one,” (because I really was), and we had large teams. My next year, the soccer team got smaller, (to only 12 people and in Class Seven, we only had 10 teammates). Those two years of having really small teams helped me realize that a strong team isn’t one that just wins all the time. It’s one that plays like there’s no tomorrow, and one that genuinely plays together as a team. Teams win together and lose together; they celebrate a win or mourn a loss and then look to what’s needed for the next game. This year, our team played a game against Cranbury, (a school we consider way out of our league). The first game they had the victory and won 4-0; however, the following week, we played them again and tied the game with double overtime. Even though it wasn’t considered a win on the scoreboard, I believe we grew immensely that game. Teams get back up when they stumble, they bring each other up and support each other, they help each other, and ultimately they make themselves better people; not just on an athletic side. Playing sports has taught me how to accept a loss but then never to stop trying to make it a win the next time. It taught me that a team can’t win if they are divided and that, in the end, life isn’t just about winning.

Reflecting on my past four years at Wilberforce, I recognize that my friends, teachers, coaches and teammates have helped me on my journey. I now know that it’s not just about the achievements you’ve made, but it’s really about the people who have helped you get there.

Amy Johnson
I have been at Wilberforce for almost 10 years. During that time, I have grown more than I can imagine. In the first few years of being here, in Explorers and Classes One and Two, life flew by so quickly, and I don’t really remember a lot. But I do have a few vivid memories, including Explorers One. During the year, each student would take turns bringing home Peter, the stuffed monkey. Everyone would come back to school with pictures of Peter and them in different places they had gone over the weekend. Of course, there’s also that time when Kathryn found a centipede in Class Two. It was about 6 inches long, and we had an empty jar on our nature table, so we decided to keep it. It only survived about two days, and then Miss Choi, (now Mrs. Park) had the delight of disposing of a dead centipede. Life was pretty good back then; little or no homework, an occasional extended recess, and barely any responsibilities. Everyone of us was really immature.

Now, Classes Three and Four were considered the “cool people”. The “little kids” always looked up to the “big kids.” But once I got to Class Four, I realized that I still wanted more. At that time, only a few immature people remained in our class, and I was one of them. By the time we got to Class Five, I was pretty much the only immature person left. I was so hungry for attention that I became the class clown. And I got in trouble a lot. At the same time, our homework load became significantly heavier, and school came to be more serious. As you can imagine, my silly antics got in the way of my grades, and they didn’t last long. With the help of plenty of teachers, I did better in the first half of the year in Class Six, but it still wasn’t my best. I don’t know what happened, but after being in Middle School for a few months, my grades improved drastically.

I never thought that a school environment could harbor so much camaraderie. Being in Middle School made me feel like I was part of “the family.” Somehow feeling legitimately included in a large group of people really changed my view of school. Even the number of homework assignments we receive every day can’t keep me from looking forward to each day of school, even today. And that’s saying something. Trust me, just when you think that your homework cannot possibly get any harder, it does - literally the next day.

My favorite part of Middle School is the house system. There’s always tournaments, and competitions between houses, but the house leaders also plan so many other activities and gatherings. There are opportunities to serve the community, events scheduled for house members just to hang out and have fun, but there are also smaller things, like sometimes in girl’s morning prayer. Everyone will split up into each house and just share some prayer requests that they have. I don’t really notice at the time, but I look back and think of how amazing it is that we have these kinds of opportunities to just sit together and talk. I am really thankful for the house system at Wilberforce.

Another thing I love about the Middle School is the friendliness between the teachers and their students. I have come to learn that Mr. Yang’s death glare does not always mean harm. And also that “Awkward Conversations 101 with Mr. Young” is a common occurrence. I have also been able to accept the fact that, during technology class, despite about five people in Class Eight playing video games instead of doing assignments, Mr. Hailstone is still conveniently oblivious. However, I really do believe that the relationships between teachers and students plays a big role in the school. Just the fact that during lunchtime, a teacher on duty will randomly walk up to a student and ask, “How’s it going?” tells me that they actually care and want to have a conversation.

I can tell that education is not Wilberforce’s only goal. Not until recently have I been able to look back and see how much this school has influenced my artistic, social, and academic growth over the past years. If I had gone to any other school, I can guarantee that I would be nowhere close to the person I am today.

Jared Martin
My parents selected Wilberforce because I excelled in my other school. Although I was sad to leave my friends, I felt reassured because I had watched some videos showing reviews of people saying how great this school is. That’s what motivated me to come here.

I had to do an online summer math course called Aleks learning program to help with my math since math at Wilberforce was a grade above what I had learned at my old school. My parents said that Aleks would help me… it didn’t. I did though get help from a tutor during the summer; her name is Mrs. O’Meara and she made me feel very comfortable when she taught the class in math since I already knew her. There is a lot of work in middle school, but the teachers are there to help you.

In middle school there are different classrooms to go to and teachers with different expectations for each class. Not only do you have to find your classes, you also must use your locker. I also learned about locker etiquette. For example, it’s polite to get in, get your stuff, and get out as fast as you can, so you don’t block others from their lockers. This is hard to do if your locker isn’t organized. People blocking your locker is very common since it is a very small space and there are a lot of people. Every time you do this it gets easier and easier to get around in the school.

As a new student, and I felt isolated because I did not know anyone. From observing how my classmates acted around each other, most of them are nice and laid back, and very, very helpful. For example, once when someone spilled water on a desk, almost everyone else went to grab about eight paper towels to help clean it up. Most of my friends that I hang out with like tons of the stuff that I like. I’m also glad that I don’t really watch or even know that much about football. I barely know any of the teams, so I don’t get into classic sports conversations like, “The Jets is the best team in this whole universe.” “No, the Bills are! Now let’s have a debate on whose team is better.” But I am involved in the school sports, even those that I had never done before, such as the lacrosse and swim teams. I have met many great friends who have made me feel comfortable coming to school.

Jenna Fischer
Confidence is beneficial to everyone. When people are confident in themselves and their abilities, they are more willing to attempt new things and are often able to do them better than they expected. In order to be truly confident, you can’t be afraid of failure. In my life, if I let fear stop me from trying something, my brain plays through dozens of possibilities of what could have happened if I’d attempted whatever I was afraid to to do. Every imagined possibility where I succeed is paired with at least three images of me failing miserably. These negative ideas are what impact me more than the positive, causing me to lose faith in myself and my abilities. The extreme opposite side of the spectrum consists of those who are overconfident. Many believe that it’s great to be overconfident, but overconfidence can be just as bad as under-confidence if it isn't based on anything other than sheer awesomeness. Although it is true that overconfident people don’t let fear stop them, and although it is true that I just said to never let fear stop you, and although those two things go side and side, overconfident people often lack a stable balance. Many of them place their identity solely in what they can achieve—if and when they aren’t able to accomplish their goals, even the unreasonable ones, they can begin to believe that they have failed everyone. This mindset is just as devastating as the first one. Throughout my time at Wilberforce, I have struggled with balancing both of these mindsets, and I hope to share my journey of how I dealt with them to you today.

At first, when I came here as a little E1 and E2 student, I was cocky, arrogant, and—quite frankly—unbelievably over confident. I thought I could do anything I set my mind to—not because I tried my best, but simply because I was Jenna the great and powerful. I had huge plans to run away from home and live in the woods like a hermit, to build a seven-story house made out of sticks in just one recess period, and—topping them all—to randomly gain superpowers and save the world from the dreaded Mr. Unfathomable. None of these aspirations ever came to pass, but, nevertheless, I dwelled on my failure to achieve them and began believing that if I was incapable of doing something as simple as gaining superpowers, I was worthless as a human

The first thing that set me on a path to an utter lack of confidence happened in Class One. I challenged the fastest kid in my class to a race. I—being relatively slow—lost by a lot, but this is not what upset me. I was determined to win and raced him several more times. Finally, one day, I won. I turned around, already gloating about my marvelous accomplishment when he said, “You do realize I wasn’t trying, don’t you?” My world began to crumble. That night, as I cried over the race, I realized something—if I could only beat him when he wasn’t trying—even after days of practice races, then practice is all for nothing. And if practice is all for nothing, then there’s no point in trying because I’ll never amount to anything. At first, I tried to ignore this realization, but as the years passed and I was just as incapable of accomplishing certain goals, I lost all confidence in myself.

In Class Four and Five, when I was homeschooled, my confidence level reached its lowest. Sure I still had dreams about living in a house with 28 cats, 5 dogs, 7 birds, 9 reptiles of an assorted variety, 2 rodents, and hundreds of pretty guppies living in fancy aquariums, but that was all they were—dreams. I was terrified of trying anything that I wasn’t one-hundred-and-two percent sure I could do. I feared that people would judge me when I failed, that people would laugh at me when I failed, and that I would humiliate myself for all eternity when I failed. And, yes, I was positive that I was going to fail. This was by far the hardest mindset to escape because I felt like I had to go through it alone. I feared that if I told anyone—even my close friends and family—about my struggles, they would scoff at me for not being strong enough to deal with it myself.

Thankfully I came back to the Wilberforce school, and through activities such as the school’s athletic programs, debate, and the help of some close friends—whether or not they know their impact on me—I have managed to break free of this mindset. Sports have given me the ability to try and practice my hardest, and they have shown me that the hours of practice is worthwhile. Debate has given me the opportunity to go to tournaments after putting hours of my time into cases, and it has shown me that pushing myself and trying my hardest on cases and in tournaments helps the entire team. Friends, however, have by far played the biggest part in helping me regain my confidence. Some friends can talk to me for hours about awful decisions that authors made in books, others make up fanciful worlds and creatures with me, others are able to start random conversations that end in both of us rolling around on the floor in laughter, yet others resist the urge to get mad at me even when I’m annoying—and trust me, I can be really annoying. These friends all have different personalities, interests, hobbies, etc… but one thing remains the same—they all accept me the way I am. They accept my awkwardness. They accept my quirkiness. They accept my absolute lack of a sense of humor. And they accept many other traits about me. I don’t have to act around them, and I don’t have to pretend to be better than I am because they accept me no matter what—even if I fail.

Although I have gone from points of extremely high confidence levels to extremely low confidence levels throughout my life, this school has blessed me by providing sports, debate, and dozens of incredible friends to help me reach the place where I am now. You can’t let your fears or your failures define who you are. You need to be yourself, and you need to not be afraid about what others think. If you are true to yourself and believe in the ability God has given you to do things, you will rise above your expectations, and you will accomplish greater things than is ever possible without the right balance of confidence.

Jeremy Sallade
Every fall, I look forward to following the football season. I also participate in a fantasy football league where you draft a team of your choice that you hope can beat any other fantasy team. Well, this year, while I was creating my team on the fantasy draft day, and idea hit me that the Wilberforce teachers I have had throughout my life are in many ways like a fantasy team. If I gave them all positions, I believe that they could beat any other teacher fantasy team in the world!

Let me explain. First of all, great football teams have a solid coaching staff. If I were to pick the best coaches, I would choose Dr. Ristuccia, Mr. Whitman, and Mr. Yoon. They give lots of guidance not only to students, but also to the other teachers. They are effective leaders, like a good coach in any sport. To pick my players, I would need advice from a perceptive scout, one who was up on statistics and weekly averages. With her scientific mind and excellent math skills, I would pick Mrs. Vardeman to help me evaluate which players to pick. Football players also need lots of support, and they are supported and encouraged from their fans. Mrs. Wallace would be my fan support because back in Class Three, she wrote success reports that kept me going and made my parents proud. When I think of strategizing, I think of Mr. Young, especially in our miniatures elective during focus week, so I would pick him to be my offensive and defensive coordinator. He is creative and strategic, and would know the right plays to call.

Zooming in on my team, Mr. Yang would be my quarterback because no one can launch a potato cannon like he can! Plus he guides all of us guys, leading us through our daily plays and encouraging our camaraderie. Some football teams win Super Bowls off pure, excellent defensive play, even when their offense isn’t good. A corner back is a key defensive player because he guards the wide receiver. So I would choose Mrs. Reardon and Mrs. Seidle as my cornerbacks, because they put people in their places, especially boys like me, and that is what cornerbacks are supposed to do. They also teach history really well, and teams need players who can remember which plays have worked and which ones haven’t from game to game.

Football players improve by frequent practice and by watching film. I would pick my film coach to be Mrs. Baldwin because she has many ways for us to remember and memorize concepts like Bible verses and other life skills in order for us to stay organized and effective and on top of our game. Football teams need a solid offensive line. These are the players who defend the quarterback. They may not seem that important but they are crucial to the team’s success. This is why, without a doubt, I would choose Dr. Pratt to be one of my offensive lineman. With his logic skills and his quick thinking, such as he demonstrated in the Sumo Bubble Battle during house period, nobody can get past him!

Players need to develop physically during practice and find help with recovery in between. This is why I would pick Mrs. Park (Miss Choi when I had her) to be my trainer, because she pushes you in Chester drills like a skilled trainer pushes her athletes. Kickers are often overlooked, but they need to be calm when they are attempting those last second field goals with all eyes on them. I would pick Miss Chong to be my kicker, because she is extremely calm when she is leading Grand-Friends day, Lessons and Carols, and Fine Arts Day. And amazingly, she is also calm when she is the only teacher with twenty middle school boys trying to sing! Lastly, I think of my special teams. Special teams are versatile and good at many things, so I would pick Mrs. Park and Mrs. Edwards as my special teams because they are always accomplishing many tasks for our school, keeping it running smoothly.

Can you see how amazing my fantasy team at school has been? Looking back on my years, I have realized that without all these teachers and classmates, each with their unique abilities and attributes, I would not be where I am today. They have all been a team together, helping me learn and work on things like patience and self-control. So I encourage you to make every effort to know your team of teachers and to enjoy the friends you have around you cheering you on. They are not just here to give you homework or send you out into the hallway – they are here to help you learn and to shape you into more godly students. Like me, you will feel like a Super Bowl champ.

Jonathan Tseng
One way how I have changed greatly since coming to The Wilberforce School is I have adopted the daily reality of Christianity more and began to realize how loving and merciful Jesus is. I realized how God took away all of our sins and is giving us the gift of eternal life.

Over the course of the school year, as I began to realize how loving and merciful Jesus is, I also thought of all the miracles that happened to me. I realized that I needed to respond to the Lord God’s conditions concerning salvation. Out of God's love toward me, He had sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for us and, by his death, took the punishment for all of our sins. Then He rose from the dead three days later, showing God’s true power over death. Even though Jesus had already paid the debt for all of my wrongdoings and sins, but I still needed to do my job, to turn away from sin and run toward God in repentance. Repenting means changing direction. Salvation means I trusted I God both for my salvation and for the place in heaven that He is preparing for me. Once we put our faith in Jesus, God takes away our sins and gives us the gift of eternal life.

Before I accepted God and repented, I did not honor any of his commandments, I disrespected my parents, stole, never honored the Sabbath day, did things that were not moral, and used the Lord's name in vain. I disrespected the God who had sent his son down to earth to die. And I still did not realize my sin or the fact that I was ignoring God's love. I was influenced by those who dishonored God, and I did improper things. In the end I committed many sins before realizing the great love that God has for me.

I have changed in many ways. I am starting to repent and accept God. I am learning to honor God’s commandments, I am starting to respect my parents, rest on Sabbath day, and even refrain from using the Lord's name in vain. By his grace, I have come realize my sins and begin walking the path of repentance.

I have changed greatly since I came to this school and began to grow in my faith. I have come to understand the nature of my salvation, to understand the need for faith, the need to go towards God and keep our faith in Jesus. I want you all to know this great truth as well, for God can take away your sins too, bless you with the gift of eternal life, and prepare for you a special place in heaven with the Lord God.

Kathryn Tel
I have been at the Wilberforce School for most of my life. It’s like my more educational home away from home. I’m not saying I wake up every morning and think, “I can’t wait to go to school and learn!” but after a healthy breakfast and a cup of coffee I begin to look forward to my day. The Wilberforce School has always forced me to do things that make me feel uncomfortable, allowed me to participate in community building activities, and encouraged me to share my creative side.

Whether it is playing kickball in gym, performing at Grandfriend’s day, participating in acting class, or giving a speech in front of the entire lower school, The Wilberforce School never seems to give me a break. When I first came to The Wilberforce School I was not shy. In fact, I was rather outgoing. But after about a year my class began to learn things I didn’t already know. I began to retreat into my shell. The teachers were always trying to make me participate in asking and answering questions during class. It wasn’t until around class four or five, when the classes grew much harder, that I realized the only way I would be able to learn and understand the subject was to ask questions. After I started asking questions I felt more comfortable in class and even began to excel in some of my classes, especially math. In fact, that year I received second place in the Math Olympiad for our school. This year I auditioned for the musical without anyone forcing me. It wasn’t until I started writing this speech that I realized that auditioning for the musical was a great example of my improvement, an improvement that I could not have accomplished without The Wilberforce School.

My first day of kindergarten I was at another school. The teachers were used to having to separate children from their parents. However, when they tried to take me away from my dad I bit onto the lapel of my dad’s jacket and refused to let go. I already knew some things about The Wilberforce School from when my mom and I dropped off and picked up my older brother and sister. Often when we were picking them up I would tell my mom that I had to go to the bathroom. This gave me an excuse to see what the school was like on the inside. I was very curious. That same year I visited the Explorers 2 class at The Wilberforce School. When I entered the classroom the teacher asked who wanted the visitor to sit with them on the carpet. Over half the class raised their hands. I still remember that I sat next to a girl named Emma. Many of the teachers like to tell me and the class stories of what my siblings and I did in the lower school. One of those teachers is Mr. Yang. His favorite story to tell is how I acted like a gargoyle in first grade. You do not need to know that story. At the beginning of this year Mr. Yang said he would not bring up the story for the rest of the year, that is after he explained the story to the entire math class. He failed the first week. To be honest, I sort of enjoy it. Community building activities are probably what The Wilberforce School does best. A “new kid” can never be alone or without a friend for long. That same community that welcomed me in kindergarten has only grown stronger through my years of being here.

Lydia Zeleznik
Picture this: spending close to two hours on a bus with all your friends, playing cards and making bracelets. Once you arrive to the destination, you unpack the bag and race to see who can put their bags on the best bunk. After everyone is situated you all go to the dinning hall and gym to eat really yummy food like the s’mors turnover. After lunch you would split up by house to get your house spirit on: glitter and face paint galore! After a fun day of house tournaments the school meets for a large bonfire, complete with s’mores. Smelling like smoke, you return for a good night's rest. In the morning, after everyone is ready, you meet for prayer and day two begins. It's full of running, fast-paced games, and some peaceful hiking in the woods. After lunch everyone piles back on the bus, tired but still us for that last game of cards, or to finish those friendship bracelets you and your friend were making. This is just one example of the attributes that set Wilberforce apart. When I first came to The Wilberforce School in fourth grade I was surprised by the great community, the involved teachers, and the deep and evident faith. While there are many great aspects to The Wilberforce School these three stand out the most to me.

One of my most favorite aspects of The Wilberforce School is the community. One part that really builds community is the house system. With houses, I have the opportunity to hang out and enjoy activities with people older and younger than me. We play games organized by our leaders like kickball, or work together to serve our community, or sometimes just play board games and eat snacks. At times the whole middle and upper school comes together to put the Operation Christmas Child boxes together and it's a whole big Christmas party in November. This continues the closeness that begins when the Middle and Upper Schools went on the retreat in September every year. With our big Wilberforce community, no one is EVER without a friend or a purpose!!!

The faculty at Wilberforce makes learning at school really unique because they specifically know each student, our various activities, and help each student for what they need. When I first came to Wilberforce I really struggled in Math and Latin. Even after my first year those subjects were (and still are) a challenge to me. But Mr. Yang, my fourth grade math teacher, really helped my transition from my old school math to the advanced Wilberforce math. Dr. Pratt, my latin teacher, this year and last really helped my rethink the way I translate Latin sentences, therefore helping me get much better grades on tests and quizzes.

Faith is also an important factor at The Wilberforce School. Since my first day here my relationship with God has really deepend. Everyday we have a full class devoted to ready the Bible and discussing our faith and God. On Tuesdays during our daily morning prayer, we spend the time journaling a verse from the bible into special books. At chapel every Friday, a speaker comes in and shares about how we can act in outside of school that it would be pleasing to God. Even my friendships made at school has deepened my faith. Sometimes if we have a lot of homework or a big test/ presentation, then we would call each other and have what one of them likes to call a prayer meeting. Doing this encourage me to pray and talk to God on my own more often.

During my five years at Wilberforce I feel that the school has really changed my for the better. The uniqueness of the school creates students that have great relationships with their peers, teachers, and God. Through my time at Wilberforce I have made some great friends, had some great teacher teachers, and deepened my relationship with God. Thank you to everyone who has made my time at Wilberforce so great.

Mathew Land
“End the speech,” the lower schoolers said unenthusiastically. “Let us leave school right now,” the lowers schoolers said dissatisfied. I know that you may be thinking that there should be no eight grade speeches, and you just want to go home and play video games on a PC. This is what many kids through middle school, and maybe even high school would want to spend their whole days doing. However, such an outlook is very shortsighted. At Wilberforce we take it for granted that we are able to come to school, and learn every day. If you played Fortnite on a PC all day, and never went to school, what do you think life would be like in the future?

I know that when I was your age I loved to play sports. I would ask my parents to let me skip school, and just play sports all day. However, as I have gotten older, every day I come into school I try to think of one fun thing that will happen that day. As Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

I am very blessed for being able to go to a school, like Wilberforce, where every day when you walk in the front door, Mrs. Edward’s says hello to you. And during your classes, your teachers acknowledge if you don’t understand something, and make sure that they help in your weaknesses. Before my very first day of school here, I didn’t know how my fellow classmates would treat me. Would they be excited to see me, or make fun of me the second I walked in the door? They didn’t make fun of me at all, and they greeted me ecstatically, and made sure I felt very welcome at my new school. As a challenge from now on, I challenge you to make sure to count all the blessings you have each day, and always warmly welcome new students too!

My first year at Wilberforce was in fourth grade, and Mrs. Seidel was the teacher. She told us that our class was going to split up into four groups, and each do a Sherlock Holmes play. I unknowingly volunteered to be Sherlock in my group’s play, not realizing how many lines I would have to memorize. I then found out how many lines I had to memorize, and it was around forty. However, I was still grateful for this acting experience. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Unless you try do something beyond what you have already mastered. You will never grow. Memorizing all those lines, uncovered something that I didn’t know I was good at, so now I really want to challenge myself. I also encourage all of you to always take the extra step, and always be devoted to your passion. If you doubt that you can do a very hard challenge problem on you math test, just do it, and prove yourself wrong.

My passion has always been sports. I particularly take a liking to basketball. Back in fifth grade there was another boy in our grade named Chandler. Every gym class during warmup laps we would always try to touch the net on the basketball hoop. He could always touch it because he was around two inches taller than I was. I set a goal for myself: to touch the net by the end of the school year. A normal time I just went up to try to touch the net, and I thought I missed. However, someone told me that I had successfully nipped the net. This was a very proud moment for me, because if you set challenging goals for yourself, and complete them, it is one of the most satisfying accomplishments!

Some people say that when good things happen, it is just a coincidence. However, I believe that God has a purpose for everything that happens to you in your life. Maybe you really wanted to get the new Madden 19 for Christmas, but your parents gave you NBA 2K 19, instead. Instead of thinking, oh, I got the game I didn’t want, try to think of this event as a chance to become a master at a new game. I hope that all of you realize that no matter what happens to you in your life, God is always right beside, taking care of you, every step of the way.

When I was in fourth grade, I looked up to the eight graders. I will tell you that time goes by very quickly. It seems like just yesterday, that I was in fourth grade. However, it is four and a half years later, and I am giving my eight grade speech to you. Make the best of each year on the earth, because life is short. Maybe you can accomplish this by doing missionary trips or just donating your clothes to Big Brothers and Big Sisters every once in a while. No matter what, whatever you do, never be afraid to show that you are a true Christian. No matter what I tell my parents, from now on, I really am grateful that they brought me to Wilberforce in fourth grade. I just want to think all the faculty and staff for making my experience here wonderful, and I look forward to making many great memories at The Wilberforce School in the future.

Michael Papovitch
Hello I am Michael Papovitch, I first joined Wilberforce in sixth grade and those two years have flown by quickly. Most likely because Wilberforce has proved thoroughly enjoyable for me, and now I will tell you about my experience here.

One reason I find Wilberforce distinguished amongst other schools I have attended is because of the academics here. Yes, our curriculum is a grade level ahead, but some other schools are like that as well, so what makes this school special? Well, for starters, the phenomenal teachers here understand you and really try to help you, which my old school utterly failed to do. Secondly, I am personally a big supporter of open ended, deep discussions, and I can tell Wilberforce encourages this in most classed I have attended. Finally, the system of learning here is clearly intended to create an educational environment in which every student can thrive. I believe the reason all of this is possible is the secure pillar of classical Christian teaching which is the foundation of Wilberforce.

Most importantly, Wilberforce was the very place that inspired me to accept Jesus into my heart. This school has had such a profound impact upon my spiritual life over the past two years. I respect and admire how much the Christian faith is integrated into daily life at Wilberforce. From the prayers at the start of class, to chapel on Fridays, all of these things influenced me little by little each day. Even now, outside of school at church, I am able to find not only the main meaning of the sermon, but the biblical constructs as well.

Now, on the social side of the spectrum, I often struggled at my old school to find a balance between my social life and academic life . Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not like I was socially awkward, not at all! It’s just that I didn’t really know where to fit in so I tended to float between different social groups. Every group of friends was just sort of not for me, and every one of them valued things that ought not to be valued. At Wilberforce however, there are no separate groups, just people with the intent of learning together and finding joy in each other’s company.

My time here at Wilberforce has been an experience filled with congeniality, academic growth, spiritual growth, great friendships and an excitement about how the purpose of my life will unfold. I have not only learned the hard, statistical facts of math and science, but the art of finding meaning in every book, the value of every open discussion, and the beauty of writing. I am Michael Papovitch and I am proud to be a student of The Wilberforce School.

Pauline Lu
Four years ago I joined a family, a community, a school. This extraordinary place has taught me to appreciate classical education, challenged me to come out of my comfort zone, and brought me into a fun-filled community. My four years at The Wilberforce School have been filled with many unforgettable memories, from laughing till I cry, to having revelations in math class. My eyes have been opened to many experiences at the school.

I came to this school in Class Five, the last class in lower school, which was an awkward class to transition schools. Arriving to Wilberforce I was shy, quiet, and terrified. This was unlike my personality but, coming to a new school full of strangers was a frightening experience for me. I didn’t want to meet new people and was afraid to talk to the people I did not know around me. But God knew what was best for me. He knew to place me in this community that went on to change me during my first year at this school and helped me come out of the shell in which I hid. Little did I know, this school became like a family with such a tight community. In Hebrews 10:24 we are told to “think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds.” I see this clearly in this school. We are also able to become friends with different people in different grades. From the nerve-racking first day of school, I have made many close friends with the people around me. We have gone through highs and lows together, had prayer meetings when stressed, tumbled down a hill in the dark, sung our hearts out on bus rides, and done many many more fun and bonding activities. Another amazing aspect of the tight community of this school is the relationships we, as students, have with teachers. Our teachers are always willing to help us and give us suggestions; out of their love to show us what we could’ve done better to help us improve. We are able to have a friendship with teachers. In fact, last year, almost every consultation a couple of friends and I would go to Mrs. Rivedal’s classroom to just hangout or chase our passions for art. The community in this school has opened my eyes to how close to a family a school is able to be.

This community also encouraged me to try new things. If you asked my nine-year old self how she felt about playing lacrosse or any other sport, she would’ve said, “WHAT? I would never.” Well, you know what they say, “Never say never.” To be honest even last year and even now, I still am quite reluctant to play sports. But, I was convinced to do lacrosse in seventh grade. I wasn’t the best, but I had fun and that’s all that matters, right? Another example is trying out for the musical. I have always played multiple instruments and I sang for fun. But trying out for a musical? That was a bit too scary. I decided to give it a try and go out of my comfort zone. I will say that I definitely do not regret it. I have been so much fun! My advice to you is never turn down a chance to try a new thing! Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. (Les Brown)

Before I came to The Wilberforce School I thought classical concepts were just boring, old ideas. When I first arrived I only just started enjoying reading. I had no idea how I would survive reading “ancient, boring literature.” But at Wilberforce, I have come to enjoy some of the classical books we read. Also when I heard we would be learning Latin I asked, “Why? There’s no point.” And “It’s a dead language!” I would dread all the Latin classes. But, in the past year or two, I have seen the skills we learned in Latin come to use and I have come to not dread class anymore. The classical Christian education has also strengthened my faith. In Bible class, we study the bible in depth and I realized many things I not have thought of otherwise. Wilberforce has taught me to appreciate classical Christian education.

During these four years at Wilberforce I have fallen down stairs and up them, choked on my own saliva, and cried oh so many times from laughter. But during these years I have also seen Gods hands in my life by placing me in the community that has changed me for the better by pulling me out of my comfort zone and my shell. This school has also opened made me realize new things about God and education. But ultimately, The Wilberforce School has encouraged me to glorify God in all that I do.

Sophia Park
School is tough, and staying attentive is much harder, at least it is for me. Ever since class one, staying focused on the material has been extremely difficult for me. And it continues to be a constant struggle of mine. But one change in mindset can make a huge difference.

Class six was the beginning of my “streak” of misbehavior. I was able to pull out decent grades with minimal effort and care, but my grades were the least of my worries. All I had cared about was to just have fun. I received detentions for everything from talking in class to supposedly throwing an art tool at a student, it was a toss, but that is past my point. Basically, I loved to have fun, but hated to do the work in order to get it. By the end of that year I had 18, if not more, detentions in total!

Reason: throwing an art tool at another student. Reading this on my detention slip made me furious. First of all, it was a rolled-up piece of paper used for blending out pencil and second it was a toss to him because he asked to use it. I had already received a slip identical to this previously without warning. Before I go any further, allow me to start from the beginning. There we sat in art class split up into four groupings of tables. My classmate looked up and asked me if he could borrow the blending tool, which lay near my elbow. As I picked it up, I remembered how unjustly and abruptly I had been punished last week for lightly tossing it to my classmate. Determined to show some quiet defiance to the teacher’s rules; I decided to toss the tool to my classmate once again. As it was in the air, I realized my classmate wasn’t looking anymore, and his arm was in a sling. I flinched as I heard it lightly hit the ground, “maybe the teacher didn’t hear it” I thought with a sinking heart. He turned his head in my direction with immense sharpness and quickness and asked, “Who threw that?” I slowly raised my hand; he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “See me after class.”

That was just one of the many instances that accentuates my foolish class six self. But hopefully you can learn something from even that story: don’t let your pride get the best of you. Seventh grade wasn’t great either, but I didn’t cumulate nearly as many detentions. Although, it was mainly because the detention system had changed. I can clearly remember mid-second semester looking at my report card, at all the remarks on behavior in class and my little efforts at school work, and knowing in my mind that I had to change something. I didn’t know where to start. So, I basically just told myself you can start next year. When I should’ve started working harder at that moment to be my best I ended up just listening to myself.

Beginning of this year I was determined to start by doing my best work. Behavior in class was still not the best, but I was starting small. All the work I put out made me proud to sign my name on it, with the exception of some unexpected Latin quizzes. I changed my attitude towards work. Now granted I still complain and think certain material is useless to me, but just trying to be open to new things and ideas I find has helped me a lot so far in trying to be a better overall student. Instead of skimming over the science book and writing down the answers to the questions, I read it carefully so as to understand what it’s saying and that made my work load so much easier. Putting in the work to understand makes the rest a breeze. Seeing the result of my efforts rewarded in my mid-first semester report card made me so happy. Knowing I had put in my best work gave me a huge amount of satisfaction.

So how did Wilberforce play a part in my journey? The teachers. Although I took them for granted in sixth and seventh grade, I now see how much they’ve helped me: Showing me grace and kindness when I deserved so much more than just a fifteen-minute lunch detention. They had patience with me, worked with my rebellious self and encouraged me to do better. I know for a fact that if they had dealt with me differently, I would’ve become more frustrated, rebellious, and overall hate school and all my teachers.

This concept of putting in your best and having an open mind has taken me seven years to accept and pursue, but has honestly made my life so much easier and enjoyable. I know most of you are probably going to let this blow over your heads, but I encourage you to consider this, and build good habits now because switching gears in eighth grade right before high school is probably not a good idea. I’m still working on this myself, and let me tell you, it is not easy. Giving into the temptations and distractions during class is much easier, but if you work at it, the results are so much more beneficial. So challenge yourselves, how can you stand out from the crowd?