Class Eight Reflections 2020
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.
My journey through life has been like climbing a mountain, a mountain with valleys and peaks. When I first came to The Wilberforce School, I knew nobody in my class except Cooper Doud, my neighbor. But I quickly made friends in this hospitable and welcoming class. During Class Five, I struggled with academics, and I wasn't much of an athlete either, ask my classmates. But I was surrounded by a community of intelligent students and athletes, and they helped me become who I am today. They have assisted me in becoming a good student, although still one who sometimes forgets some assignments, and also a strong athlete. I have traveled my whole life, I was born in Pennsylvania; I have lived in Arizona, Spain, and New Jersey.
Since I have come to The Wilberforce School, I have learned a lot. I have expanded my vocabulary, I have learned basic Latin, and have developed character, in ways that have helped me both on the soccer field and though everyday life. Sports have also changed me: I started doing playing in Class Five. Lessons in teamwork and skills acquisition followed. My class has also impacted me and changed my life for the better. This school has helped me grow in faith; it has led me both to memorize many verses and to study each Bible book individually. I have learned about different worldviews and expanded my knowledge about history. The Wilberforce teachers are also amazing, they do their best to help you to succeed. The best part of Wilberforce is my friends. I have had many enjoyable experiences with them throughout the years. If there was anything I would tell you it would be, take advantage of the friends that you can make here. They will not only be great companions; they will also be examples and encouragers.
So what I am saying is that The Wilberforce School is a good place to grow. Grow as a student, as an athlete, and as a believer. You can start growing today.
Even though I’ve only been at The Wilberforce School for two years, in this short time I have learned many different ways to learn better. For example, through these years I have grown more organized with my thoughts, papers, and assignments. I’ve also become less quiet and more involved in the conversations, a habit which is good as it helps me understand more. The last way I’ve grown is by willingly asking more questions to teachers when I am confused about a subject. I have learned that advocating for myself is a big part both of learning and of becoming more mature.
Organization is a key component of school and life because without organization, you will find yourselves unprepared for many classes and and also for many other things to come. Last year during the end of the school when we had to clean out our lockers to go home, I realized that my organization skills needed to improve. As I looked into my locker, it appeared to be a pit of endless books. In fact, I took almost half an hour to clean out that mess. And the worst part was that I had to carry home in my hands about half my books. I also had to miss most of recess cleaning out my locker. There were so much unnecessary trash and needless things in there that if I had takes the time to throw them away, earlier none of this would’ve happened. And I wouldn’t have paid the consequence of missing recess. That’s why going into this school year knew that I had to be more organized with my papers, as well as with my big assignments, my books, and my locker. Now I take the time to put my papers in my binder in their respective places instead of just cramming papers into a folder. And I will never again have to go through the painful locker-cleaning process that I experienced last year.
When I first visited Wilberforce and even during the first few months of my first year I was often super shy and very quiet. I barely participates in any of the class discussions and just listened instead. This extreme quietness was mostly because I was in a new environment where I didn’t really know anyone, but it’s hard for people to meet you fully if you won’t talk to anyone and just sit in the corner by yourself. That’s a truth that I learned during that first year at Wilberforce. Around the middle of the school year I started joining more into conversations and opened myself up to talk to my friends--allowing them to know me and me to know them. Now I realize that I don’t have to be super loud to participate in class discussions or conversations. So now I am more involved with people and conversations.
In addition to organizing myself and talking with my classmates, I have come to see that advocating for myself is an important and necessary life skill, one that everyone should know. Imagine if you missed one class and had a test on that material the following day. Would you just stand there and be okay with taking the test, when you were totally uncomfortable with the material? In the past, I would have just stood there. But that choice was a big mistake. Later I learned that advocating for one’s self is a life skill that everyone needs. At Wilberforce, I discovered that the teachers are there to help and that they care about their students. It took some time to learn to ask questions or to seek out extra help on class material about which I was not comfortable being tested. But I have now learned that Wilberforce is a community where no teacher will judge you unfairly and also one where teachers will always have time to talk to you. I wish I knew these truths earlier in my Wilberforce career. Now I know that asking questions is beneficial for all studies--even if I have to “go out of my comfort zone” to do it.
Overall Wilberforce has helped me grow as an individual and as part of my class and the community around me. And these lessons are not just meant for me. Everything I talked about is something that you should take into consideration. Wilberforce is truly a learning community that I’m proud and thankful for all that I have learned within this community.
Good Morning, everyone, my name is Daniel Ju. I’m have been at The Wilberforce school for the last two years. Today I would like to talk to us about my relationship with God and how it has grown both in Wilberforce and outside of Wilberforce. When I was your age, I had no idea about the word “spiritual” meant or if it should have any impact on me. Now I am different Why do I say all that? Because today I’m going to talk to you about how my life has changed as my relationship with God has grown.
Unlike many of you, I was born and raised in China. I have never heard a single thing about Christianity until I came to the United States. When I was growing up, I never heard stories about Jesus, nor did I sing worship songs. Also, in China, we have no grades. All that matters is our results on our midterm and final exams, and even those our not a really big deal, because I failed one of these exams.
So even though everything appeared fine, I never felt satisfied. I always wanted to own another Lego set or views another episode of my favorite TV series or have another opportunity to play cards with my friend. I didn’t have any knowledge about this world or about how (or why) to work hard. Sometimes as I walked back from school, these questions ran through my thoughts: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where will I go when I die?
When I was twelve, my family moved to America. Then someone introduced me to a church. At that time, my English is as bad as you can imagine. I had a horrible accent, and I have a vocabulary of about ten words. However, the people at church just seemed so much more friendly than those people at my school. (I should mention that I was attending Princeton’s public middle school, in case you are wondering.) Through church I learned more about God and his plan, and I began to understand this world through His wisdom.
This may seem hard to understand, but I’ll explain. Imagine right here, in front of you, is sitting one of your favorite things [At this point, I give an example or show one of my favorite things.] You do believe it’s in front of you. Are you just going to sit there and wait for that thing drop into your hand? Of course not! you are going to stand up and take it. This analogy describes what happened to me. I was sitting and just waiting not grasping. I might have known God, I might have read a lot of the Bible, I might be able to recognize every Bible story and characters, but did I believe in God? My answer was only “Maybe.” I was grasping something, but that something was not God.
The next year I came to The Wilberforce School. My first year at Wilberforce was troublesome. It is hard for me to get rid of my old and inappropriate self, and fit into a very clean community like Wilberforce. I had many struggles in my behavior and my speech. I did not take the church as seriously as I had done when I first arrived in New Jersey. I abandoned my original plan of reading the entire Bible, and I did not go any further in my spiritual life.
In your life, you may have times where your relationship with God gets worse and worse. Those are struggles: know that God will always try to help you in those struggles. Here is the catch, when the opportunity comes to change, you must use that opportunity well. My opportunity was a ten-day retreat that I attended during this summer in China. One of the sermons which spoke to my heart concerned repentance. Repentance means not only to feel God’s love but also to feel bad for the sins we have done. It is not just saying “I’m sorry”; it’s to change from the heart. This discussion may also be a bit confusing to many of you. Think about the thing you like that earlier. Now I knew I needed to walk away from the wrong things that were calling to me. I had to drop the old lifestyle and repent.
This retreat changed me from the inside out. Now I can feel my parents, teachers, classmates, pastor, and other people’s love for me in a different way. I learned to find joy and happiness in what was given. I learned to worry less. I feel like God has changed me in my life through my parents, my pastor, and my teacher at Wilberforce. God will also always guide you. While I hope my story will reveal to you a little more about me, I hope even more that it will influence you, that you will recognize the opportunities that God has placed in your life. Also, I challenge you today is take time to tell the people around you something interesting or something you are presently enjoying. Know this: God wants us to enjoy this life and what was given. Again, thank you for listening.
During my three years at Wilberforce, this school has taught me about my Christian identity. When I look around the world, and I see so many people who don’t know their purpose. A majority of the earth population’s goal is “to be a cow.” (That’s my description.) Most people just want to fit in with the herd. They’re afraid to stand out. At Wilberforce the community is different from the rest of the world. I have learned how to lead by example, how to reveal my Christian traits, and how to apply Christianity to all aspects of my life. Wilberforce shaped me into the Christian I am today.
1 Timothy 4:12 states: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” This verse is directed toward all of us (kids). It tells us to be courageous and show other people what a Christian does. I learned how to do this from many other great examples who are the Wilberforce staff, a few of these being Mr. Yang, Mr,Young, and Dr. Ristuccia. Many people think how they act and how they represent the Son of God doesn’t matter. Well, it does. Many of my friends from outside of school have not come to Christ. Whenever, I hang out with them, they often notice (and remark on the fact) that I won’t curse and I won’t talk about the same negative kind of things they will. This difference often leads to their asking me a question like, “Why do you act this way?” or they just ask themselves, “Why is he so different?” This questioning doesn’t immediately make my friends convert them to Christianity; however, it makes them stop and think. So many people are raised in homes where going to church every Sunday just isn’t “the thing.” That is why it is so important that who really believe in Jesus represent who Christians are and how amazing God is. When an atheist sees a Christian walking around town with fullness, joy, and a purpose, this leads them to wonder, what am I missing? To this question, we all know the answer is Christ.
At this point you are probably wondering how you are supposed to lead by example. Luckily for you Wilberforce has blessed me with the knowledge of how a Christian leads his life, what his character traits should be. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” This is a general list of the virtues that Wilberforce encourages us to demonstrate All of the staff and faculty express this fruit daily as they are teaching us, especially they show us patience. Don’t get me wrong, no one expects you to be perfect. At The Wilberforce School, the faculty and even your peers are there to help you improve in the areas you struggle the most, and to do so with genuine care. This camaraderie is one of the reasons Wilberforce is so special.
Lastly, Wilberforce has given me wisdom as to how to apply Christianity to all aspects of life. Going to Wilberforce has been such a blessing. I don’t know of many other schools that pray before each class and have a chapel every Friday. Every Thursday we break into groups and pray for each other. Four days a week we have Bible class to help us increase our knowledge of the Word. The atmosphere here is like a family, which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in other schools. The teachers all show genuine care. It really is amazing, and it is a great privilege. In many other countries, it’s illegal even to say the name Jesus. Throughout the earth, two out of every three people don’t know Jesus. That is why none of us should take for granted the knowledge that is offered here. Wilberforce prepares you to go out into our world and be a strong Christian leader--one who isn’t a cow, someone who doesn’t blend in with the herd and follow the usual ways.
In life there are going to be many paths we can choose and many distractions that take us away from what is important. You will be asked to make many important life-changing decisions. The Wilberforce School teaches the right path, the path of God. Jesus commands us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it ” (Matthew 7:13).
My time at Wilberforce has taught me about my Christian identity. I have learned how to lead by example, how to exhibit Christian character traits, and how to apply Christianity in the real world. I know that I have explained this morning is all is going over many of your heads, but I just ask if you are going to take away anything from my speech, remember this: Don’t be a cow; don’t just follow the narrow herd-like path. If you already can’t remember what those ideas mean, that is okay too. Just ask one of the one of the teachers around you, I’m sure they can tell you, because they are the ones who told me.
Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” The sentiment behind this quotation perfectly captures the single most valuable tool you have at your disposal to in order to have a great experience at The Wilberforce School. What is this tool, I’m speaking of? It is the quality of having a positive attitude.
Adopting a good attitude is something that comes easily for some; however, others struggle to develop it. One locale where it is easy to fall into a bad attitude is school, where, truth be told, there is a lot of work, and that work isn’t always what most interests you. For example, one year in literature class, I wasn’t enjoying the book selection. Instead of having a negative outlook for the entire year, I decided to choose an optimistic outlook about the reading, no matter what, I actually started to enjoy the book we were reading. Turns out, I began to look forward to reading. The easiest path was to think and act negatively about something I didn’t like; however, I had a much better time once I decided to change my attitude.
So, how does one find a positive attitude toward something that you initially feel negative about? When I think about myself and how I have come to have a more positive attitude, I found the secret hint to a positive attitude and guess what? The secret is available to every person in this room. I am talking about gratitude. If you remember nothing else from my speech, then just remember the relationship between showing gratitude and having an optimistic attitude. Playing soccer has exemplified this connection for me. I started playing for the soccer team in order to stay in shape and bide my time until basketball and lacrosse seasons came. Soccer was not my favorite sport; in fact, before playing for Wilberforce, I had never played soccer before. And so, I joined the team with a half-hearted commitment. As time went on, I came to feel thankful for the bonding experience of playing soccer with my teammates, and I ended up cultivating inspiring and rewarding friendships. You may find it hard to believe, but I even started to enjoy soccer. As my gratefulness for my teammates and coaches grew, I enjoyed the sport more, and I’ve even become a volunteer goalie, which has been a fun experience. This progression from not liking soccer to genuinely enjoying it started with gratitude.
A positive attitude ends up helping the person who adopts it, for sure. But even better is the effect that a positive attitude has on the people around you. Consider what your positive attitude can do for the teacher of classes that you are in. Your positive attitude makes is easier for him/her to teach, and it definitely makes instructing you a lot more enjoyable! By the way, I can’t mention our teachers without thanking them for their support in every aspect of our lives, as well as for their genuine care for us in a personal way. The teachers at The Wilberforce School (and I have been under their leadership since Explorers One) are like no others. I am so thankful for them. Now think about your classmates, your friends, your family. When you have a positive attitude, you are contagious! You help people around you to be more positive, you make the environment around you more pleasant, and you become someone who is great to have around, not someone who drags everyone else down.
Now, it may sound like I have this “positive attitude thing” all figured out. I don’t; stilI I recognize how important it is, and I am seriously trying to practice it in my daily life. As you Lower School students well know, at The Wilberforce School, we learn a lot about “habits,” about the ways we should be acting. I hope that the habit of being positive and optimistic is becomes a permanent part of my personality. I hope you want to develop this habit too! Let me close with quoting Proverbs 17:22, a verse that captures my outlook: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
From laughing and talking to my classmates, to screaming at the top of my lungs on a two hour-long bus ride, to singing Disney songs at the top of my lungs, I have valued every moment at Wilberforce. My first year at Wilberforce was with Mrs. Seidle in first grade. From that year on, for these last eight years that I have been here, I have been changed drastically. My years at Wilberforce have strengthend my walk with Christ, made me more independent, and helped me become a better friend, student, and person.
First, the teachers here make learning almost everything fun. In first grade, we learned about Leonardo da Vinci, and Mrs. Seidle even tried to make a representation of the horse for us. In second grade, Ms. Choi, (the now Mrs. Park), taught us math by using skittles and helped us learn better when we were allowed to eat the candies. In third grade, Mrs. Wallace introduced us to MIMAL which taught us where states were on the map. In fourth grade, Mrs. Seidle bravely took on the task of bringing 13 fourth graders on a trip to Gettysburg. In fifth grade, we learned about Egyptian burial traditions by burying one of our own. (Now if you were wondering if we buried a human, we didn’t. We buried a chicken whom we named “Donald Gerf.”)In sixth grade, Ms. Chong fearlessly led 30 middle school boys to sing for the Grandfriends and Fine Art Events. We also had our own little election which demonstrated the Roman political ideas we were learning about. In seventh grade, we worked on our very first play, Much Ado About Nothing. This year, in Class Eight, we put the French revolution into action with our own little French Revolution and our very own guillotine (paper cutter). In other words, all of my teacher’s have helped me become a different and changed person.
Although I have learned much through academics, participating in extracurriculars such as the musical, debate, sports, and many other electives, have especially helped me to become a better leader, team member, and listener. Joining the musical was never something I would have imagined doing; however, this past September I decided to audition for the school musical, The Sound of Music. Something else I never would have imagined doing was joining the cross country team. Although I might not be the best at running, joining the team has made me a better athlete and team member.
Wilberforce has also strengthened my walk with God with our daily prayers and devotionals. Through all these experiences, I have become more independent. I can’t wait to see how God will use all these spectacular teachers and experiences to influence many, many other students. Thank you.
Over the past ten years of being at Wilberforce, I have learned an unbelievable number of things. Not only did I learn history facts, read classical literature, and calculate all sorts of mathematical problems, I also learned to be more like Christ by exhibiting habits such as self-control, patience, and respect. I am not perfect, and I still have a long journey ahead of me, but I can tell you that Wilberforce has made big changes in me. Today I will talk about my growth in self-control.
When I was an Explorers One student, as some of you are right now, I loved school. (I still love school now, but I can tell you that some days I don’t feel like going to school at all.) Anyway, I loved school so much that I was sad whenever I had to leave. It was amazing how much I enjoyed school. One day, I was not feeling too well. I threw up in a bathroom stall, and I just left the mess there in the middle of the stall. I was hoping to ignore my illness, and stay at school. Unfortunately, a person saw me walk out of the stall, and she went to tell a teacher. That teacher had to come and lead me out of class before I could infect or hurt anybody else. I did not want to go home, so I said, “No.” I wanted to stay. In fact, that day, a teacher had to drag me, by hand, out of the school building. I was so mad. I wanted to stay at school. So, what do I do? I screamed as loud as possible! The entire school heard my screams, and to this day, Mr. Yoon is haunted that memory. (You can ask him yourself!) This is just one of the many examples of my failures at self-control. The Wilberforce School’s teachers have helped shape me to become a more composed person. They said, “No.” when necessary, but they also gently reminded me when necessary, and they have guided me through my years.
My friends are also very forgiving. They are way more forgiving than I deserve. I have sometimes made impulsive moves, which led to several disasters. Most of them are too embarrassing to even mention, and I still make impulsive moves these days, though not as frequently. In fact, during this school year I hit someone in the head with my lunchbox. I don’t know why I did that, and I recommend that you don’t follow my example. As soon as the lunch box went “bang,” I felt so sorry, and I wish I had not made the poor choice. My classmate was very forgiving, and I am so thankful for that. But, I still have such a graphic picture of my sin in my head, and I know that I would not have done that if I had more self-control, if I had thought before I acted. This single incident has taught me so much. It has taught me to have better self-awareness and self-control, because each bad impulse leads to bad consequences for not only yourself, but others around you. I could not have learned that without the kindness, patience, and forgiveness of the friends around me!
As I said before, my teachers have supported in such unbelievable ways. When I was younger, there were several occasions where I had a physical fight with a classmate. I won’t tell you the nitty gritty details, because I can now remember and cringe. I am still ashamed of what I have done to this very day! I can tell you that I distinctly remember being sent to the principal’s office, and facing my punishments. My teachers gave me time to think about what I should have done, they gave me time to think about having more self-control, and they gave me time to try to fix the relationships which I had broken in the process of my impulsive moves. They also reminded me to respect my peers. And to this very day, that reminder still sticks with me.
I slowly learned from my mistakes, and all is pretty good now. I am still miles from being perfect. But I remember all those times where I have lacked self-control, and I see that someone always, whether it was a friend or teacher of The Wilberforce School, was there to guide me. In most tough situations which I encounter, I can usually keep my head and remember to have self-control. I am so thankful for The Wilberforce School, and I could have asked for a better education. I am so glad you are here at Wilberforce: know that your friends and your teachers are there to help you as well.
From exploring Gettysburg on the Class Four trip to hitting three-point shots in a school basketball game, I’ve treasured my past four years at The Wilberforce School. Switching to Wilberforce was definitely worth it. Before coming to Wilberforce, I was homeschooled, so I was nervous about entering Wilberforce. After all, I didn’t know anyone, and I had not been to a school since first grade. But switching to Wilberforce turned out to be an awesome decision. As I first walked into Wilberforce, Mrs. Edwards kindly welcomed me in and showed me to the Class Three classroom where I would be visiting. Mrs. Wallace showed me what the class was doing, and told me to sit on the rug, because they were in the midst of a Bible discussion. The class members were kind, and I could see they were discussing and listening to each other’s comments. I was only in class for about 30 minutes, but I could already tell, this was the type of environment I would want to learn in and grow in. Since starting here, I’ve grown in many ways, but three of those ways particularly stand out to me: my study habits, my faith, and my athleticism.
During my Lower School years, I enjoyed the school's curriculum. However, I wasn’t very good at organizing all the papers I would receive for my different classes. Every time a sheet of paper or handout on homework was passed out to me, I would just stuff that paper or handout in my binder or backpack. I never really thought much about my organization habits (or lack of habits), at least until I came to Middle School. In Middle School, I found that I had many papers to complete and essays to write. For most of my Class Six year, I kept buying more binders thinking they could fix me, but I did not use them effectively. The paper and homework load grew harder, and I knew I had to do something different in Class Seven. That year, I saw that we had a new class called “Study Skills.” This was just the class I needed. We had this class only once a week with Mrs. Baldwin, but I could soon tell that I was improving my study and organization habits. I could tell specifically because I was earning better grades. This year, I’m still trying to improve my study habits. So, I am so glad I had help in improving my organization and study habits.
The second way I've grown at Wilberforce is in my faith in Christ. One of the main reasons I joined Wilberforce is because of its emphasis on distinctively Christian learning. I thought this was a good decision, because I would learn more about God. In Lower School, I discovered that morning assembly was helpful. At Assembly, we would recite a verse of the month and sing a hymn of the month. In class, we memorized recitations from the Bible that we would later recite at Grandfriends Day, Lessons and Carols, and Fine Arts Day. All these activities have helped me draw closer to Jesus. In Middle School, I grew in my faith in different ways. It is a lot different than Lower School because we have more class discussions, which has given me a feeling for what my classmates are thinking about their faith. Also, in Middle School, I study what the Bible is communicating to us, and I take time to discuss those messages. Worldview Class is especially helpful because we have the opportunity to learn about different religions, and what they believe. This challenges me to better understand what I believe. Thank you to the Lower and Middle School teachers who have helped me draw closer to Jesus.
The last way I have grown at Wilberforce would be in my athletic abilities. Over nine seasons of participating in Wilberforce Sports (I’m in my tenth right now - I started while I was a homeschooler), I have played basketball, cross-country, track, swimming, and lacrosse. I’ve watched my three pointers improve in accuracy, my times go down in cross-country, track, and swimming races, and my throwing in lacrosse get more accurate. Wilberforce athletics has pushed me to continue running through the last 100 meters and execute that last push up. The main people who have helped me grow with this has been my coaches. During the basketball season, for instance, Mr. Yang used team-building exercises to bring our team together. My coaches have helped me grow in my skills, athleticism, and teamwork. So, I thank them for forming me into a better athlete.
Now you see, that by attending The Wilberforce School for four and a half years, I have grown in my study habits, faith, and athletics. Without all my teachers, who have helped guide me in the right path, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Whether it was teaching me about the Old Testament or pushing me to spring the last 100 meters of the mile, I would like to thank all the teachers for helping me become who I am today and for giving me such good reasons to keep coming back. I am grateful that I have become a better person thanks to The Wilberforce School.
Art: some people love it; some hate it. Without a doubt, I belong to the latter group. Growing up, I have always referred to myself as someone with zero artistic talent. Believe me, if you saw my drawings in Pictionary, you would agree. I never believed in myself. I didn’t think I could improve. Let’s face it: I was a hopeless case. I had somehow always managed to crawl through art class year after year. By the time I had reached Class Seven, I knew that no matter how hard I tried my art would still be terrible. This state of mind really set me back. Without the belief that I could become better, my effort in art actually decreased. On the surface, I was trying decently hard, but in my innermost depths, my heart just wasn’t in it.
Then came the mid-semester report. I have always done well in school, and I expected this report card to be no different. As I flipped through the pages, happily skimming the positive comments, I finally reached the art section’s grade: B. I was shocked. It was like an ugly ink blot on my report card. Surely there must be a mistake, I told myself. Surely the “A” key was what the teacher meant to press, and her finger fell on the “B” key by accident. This “B” wasn’t my grade. Art was based on talent, not effort. There must be a mistake.
The next day, I had my question answered. After class, my teacher explained to me that my work wasn’t a reflection of peak performance: I wasn’t really trying. At the time, I was angry. I couldn’t help it if I wasn’t talented at art. But over time, I began to realize that my teacher was right. I wasn’t putting my best foot forward. I was determined to earn a better grade, so I started really caring, fully applying myself, and by the time the semester was over, I had brought my art grade up to an “A.” And my art? It may not be on display at the Metropolitan, but it got better too.
The challenge of overcoming myself to achieve a higher score in art helped me improve my art, my performance, and myself. Today, I can state that I am better because of that challenge. I credit it all to my teacher for helping me push past my limits and improve my skills; I credit the school for retaining an academically challenging curriculum that encourages students to persevere even in areas they aren’t strong; and I credit God, for being the anchor in my life, in art as in all things, and always sustaining me through good times and bad.
I love to run. When I was about seven, I realized that I had talent in the sport, and I have worked hard to become faster and stronger. Running can be quite fun, but it is also, at times, very difficult. It requires focus, energy, endurance, and most importantly mental strength. When you run hard, you push your body to a point where you feel pain and want to stop. Every runner experiences this, no matter how fast they are or how long they have been running. To be a good runner is to learn how to push through that pain and keep your body moving. Although running is hard, it is always rewarding when you finish; after every run, you will be stronger than you were when you started.
Being a student at Wilberforce is like running. At The Wilberforce School you will experience hard things; I am sure you already have. Sometimes you will want to give up. But to do well at Wilberforce, you must learn to push through these hard times and look on the bright side. At Wilberforce when you push through a big homework assignment, you will feel accomplished and be smarter than when you started. In every way, this outcome is worth the work.
Running is extremely fun. Recently I ran my last cross country meet for The Wilberforce Middle School Team. It was one of the best races I have ever run. As I ran, I felt comfortable. The wind “breezed” in my face. The trees provided me shade, I was running at a good pace, and I could hear my family cheering for me. As I found in my run, many times at Wilberforce you will enjoy your class. You will love what you are learning, you will be in good relationships with your friends, and your life will feel easy. When you go through these uplifting times, enjoy them and do not take them for granted.
As I said earlier, not all running is fun. This season I ran a race in Cranbury. Part of the race went through a park that had many sharp turns and was wet and muddy. About two miles into the race, I slipped and rolled on the ground. I scraped my knee and bruised my hip, but I had to get up and keep running. My heart was racing, and I had dirt in my wound. All of me wanted to stop running and end this miserable race. But I could not stop; I remember praying for strength during that race. I knew that in my strength, I could not run hard to the finish. I needed God’s help. At the time it was so difficult, but looking back, I am so glad I fell. That day I learned a number of lessons: how to push through, how to be strong, how to work hard, and, most importantly, how to call out to Christ to carry me through.
Every runner will sometimes have a side stitch, every runner will make a wrong turn, and every runner will trip. This is just part of the sport, and each runner has to learn to prevail and look on the bright side. Not all of your time at The Wilberforce School will be a breeze: you will forget to do your homework; you will be bored in class; you will argue with your friends. It is how you work through these things that matter. Always cry out to the Lord if you are struggling. When hardship comes do not “drop out of the race,” but instead lean on Christ as your Rock.
When you run the purpose is clear: to become faster, to grow stronger, to run smarter, and to learn your race. Sometimes you will learn from a good race, but a lot of the time you learn from a hard race where you tripped or when you are beaten even though you hoped to win. In a parallel way, with your Wilberforce classes, you will learn the most from the times you mess up. Know that there is no such thing as a failure--as long as you learn from your mistakes.
My journey at Wilberforce has been fun, it has been hard, and I have grown and improved so much from it. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Today I want to encourage you to take Paul’s advice, to work towards the prize, to push hard through your race at Wilberforce, AND to set your mind toward winning your race.
During my years as a student, I have grown in my knowledge and love of Christ. Wilberforce is the second classical, Christian school that I have attended. The influences from Geneva, my old school, and from Wilberforce have helped me to grow in my relationship with God. At Geneva, I studied the Bible at school in ways that grew my relationship with God: I learned hermeneutics, I presented a project on one of Jesus’ miracles, I wrote and gave a Chapel Speech, and I memorized Scripture.
Hermeneutics is the study of how to read the Bible, and we had two books that helped us to do this: a Bible dictionary and a Bible concordance, both of which helped me when I was confused about a term or wanted to find out the background of a passage.
In the middle of the year, each of us students were assigned one of Jesus’ miracles. We had to find all the information about that miracle we could, and then present these findings to the class. I was given the healing of the paralytic, and with the help of the Bible and the two other books, I discovered insights from that passage that I had earlier just skimmed over. For example, I discovered that when the Bible speaks about Jesus seeing “their faith,” it is the faith of the friends that brought the paralytic to Jesus. I also learned that Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sins before He heals the sick man’s legs because it is more important to be spiritually healed, than physically healed.
I gave a Chapel Speech on Acts 24, which is the chapter where Paul is on trial in Caesarea before Felix. In this chapter, Paul is put in jail for no crime. Through this injustice, several people are able to hear and believe in the gospel. Through this passage, I learned that God knows what is best for us and that He makes good come even even our worst experiences. Every sentence in God’s Word is rich, and I have learned, and am continuing to learn, to feel the importance of every part in Scripture. If I had not done a Chapel speech on this passage, I probably would have just skimmed through it, but because I presented a speech on it, I delved deeply into God’s message.
In my years as a student, and particularly from second grade and up, I have memorized and studied a lot of Scripture. The amazing benefit of memorizing verses, is that when you are in any situation, you can find comfort from those certain verses that you have hidden in your heart. For instance, whenever I am running the mile, and I am really tired, I think, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and this verse gives me the perseverance to keep on running. By memorizing Scripture from the Old Testament, we are able to see how prophets foretold what would happen to Jesus, and in the New Testament, and we find out a lot about who Jesus is, about the gospel, and about God’s promises to us. It is also really fun to memorize and act out Jesus’ parables. In sixth grade, for instance, I memorized Luke 15 in song acting it all out.
In seventh grade, my educational journey continued at Wilberforce. Last year, we read through and discussed most of the New Testament. That seems like a lot of information to take in, but we went through the verses slowly, and the study was very interesting. By studying the New Testament, I grew closer to God and learned more completely what the gospel is, how we as Christians should act, what we should avoid, and what we should participate in. This year, we are learning about different religions, and also what we, as Christians, really believe. By going through the WHERE, WHO, WHAT’S WRONG, and WHAT’S THE REMEDY questions, I am grasping more firmly what we believe in and why we believe it. Through this experience I have learned more about and strengthened my relationship with God.
All of these experiences have helped me understand and spend more time with Jesus. Because of that, I have grown closer to Him. Through hermeneutics, I dove deeper into God’s Word and learned more of its meaning; through memorizing God’s Word, I found comfort in hard times; and by studying the New Testament and our belief in Christian theism, I understand more clearly what we, as Christians, believe in and so expand my knowledge of and relationship with God. I have enjoyed forming a more intimate relationship with God, and I look forward to loving and serving God more every day in my next few years at Wilberforce.
When I think of my time in Wilberforce, I think of a tough climb up a mountain. Every new year has new challenges, new excitement, new surprises, and unpredictable moments. When you climb, you discover natural respite spots that you can use to plan out where you are going to stop and recover. For middle school, you will discover three major checkpoints and multiple minor respite spots in between. While the process is very painful, the rewards and sense of accomplishment are worth it. This journey has its ups and downs, but overall, it has taught me how to persevere.
The first checkpoint was Class Six. This was my first year in Wilberforce, and it was the greatest year. The beginning of a climb is always the most fun because you are fresh, and there’s the fun of feeling that nothing can stop you. I had this same feeling because I switched from a public school, and I was very excited to see how I was going to operate in this incredibly different school environment. In public school, grade includes hundreds of kids, and you aren’t able to know your teachers very well. I was excited to see the differences that would come from being part of a smaller group. I was worried but excited that it might be like when I moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Actually, it was very different. Contrary to my experiences on that move, I immediately felt welcomed, and I easily adjusted--thanks to the teachers and students making me feel welcome. For instance, the September retreat was an amazing way to meet new classmates and also be introduced into the house system. It was a super enjoyable and proved an encouraging first start for me. Of course the experience is never perfect, just as during your first section of the climb, you aren’t as experienced so you still struggle. The toughest part of Class Six, was Latin. It really tested my patience, and it still does. But the struggle helped me learn to trust that the teachers and the administration knew what was good for me, so I knew I should just keep on persevering or, as Dory would say, “just keep swimming.”
The second checkpoint was Class Seven, the middle of the middle. This is the year that generally proves the worst year of middle school. The reason for this is that you don't receive Class Eight privileges, but you feel as if you have a similar responsibilities to those eighth graders. I was pleasantly surprised that I did not note any prejudice against seventh graders. We had some super-amazing events that were organized for us. Shakespearience, for example, was one of these. It was fun to act a play as a class and learn how to perform more effectively. It wasn’t at all easy though. This Class Seven year took the most perseverance so far. I really had to learn to cope with managing my time. The extra workload compared to Class Six, when added on to dramatically increased seriousness in tennis, really caused me to feel overloaded. For example, on at least two or three days a week, I would have tennis from 4-5pm, then again from 6:30-9/9:30 so I had a one hour and thirty minute window to eat, do homework, and accomplish everything else that needed to be done. It was a pretty hard place to find myself--one where I felt like I was always having to rush to complete my assignments in on time, let alone get ahead. I thought about quitting so many times, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I couldn’t bear the feeling of letting myself, and especially my teachers, down. I could tell they cared so, if I were to give up, I would have wasted their time, and I would feel like a worthless cause. This pushed me to persevere, it gave me great experience on how to cope with different stressful situations, and it reminded me that I needed to turn to God when it feels impossible. When you climb, there are always places where you feel like giving up, but if you do, your probably going to fall really far, so probably you should just keep on going.
My last checkpoint is the class I’m in now, Class Eight. Honestly, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about this starting school in September, because I knew this year would be the hardest. Yet like any climb, the last section is always the hardest, but in many ways it is the most important. When you climb the last leg, you already have a sense of how hard it’s going to be, which is very painful. The upside is that you have the experience to know how to handle certain challenges that you wouldn’t have been able to handle earlier in the expedition. This year has started just how I guessed: it is tough. Class Eight is really is pushing me, but I’m determined to keep on persevering. If I hadn’t learned how to persevere in earlier years, I don’t know how I’d persevere through this year. With all the support my teachers and friends have given me, I think might just squeak through middle school, if I’m lucky. Although this year is harder, there are things that make up, justify, and relieve the pain. For instance, the musical is very exciting for me. It is incredibly fun and interesting to be a part of a production. I love the warm camaraderie has formed throughout the whole cast, despite the age gaps. Another reason life is good, is that we, as eighth graders are “top dog,” as Mr. Yang says. We do receive Class Eight privileges, and we receive more responsibility, but the best part I am excited for is the gatherings and events different teachers and parents organize for us. Each of these is a motivation to persevere, just like the goals you have during the last leg of a climb that keep you going when you are so close to reaching the top of the mountain.
As I review my Wilberforce journey, I have noticed that one of the greatest things I have learned is how to persevere. With the help and support of the community and, ultimately, the Lord, I really feel that I can beat any obstacle that is put in front of me. My middle school climb is almost over, and it has been a very intuitive journey. Just remember from my story that, if you persevere, you may learn to: “climb every mountain.”
As I opened the door of the car, I glimpsed the eagle’s majestic nest rising to the top of a tree, surrounded by dense forest. In the background, past an expanse of green, stood what appeared to be a castle out of a fairy tale. Dramatically, I opened my arms, raising them up to the heavens, declaring, “This is the earth that I want.” I was seven years old, and we had just left New York City to arrive at The Wilberforce School. Upon entering the school for the first time, I was thrilled to see the walls lined with bird drawings from Class 2. An avid bird lover since I can remember, this brought great joy to my heart. Upon meeting Dr. Ristuccia, I discovered that her husband, also the pastor of my new church, was a bird enthusiast himself. I sighed in wonder. Was this a dream? Had I entered Heaven? What is this school that has its own eagle and studies birds? Yet soon I learned that The Wilberforce School had to do with something far more important than birds. It had to do with helping me become more of the person that God desires me to be. Over the years, The Wilberforce School has shaped and helped me to grow in countless ways, but most importantly, the school has helped me to not only develop a growth mindset but also to work together in groups as part of a community; both of these goals have always been quite challenging for me.
Having a growth mindset has never come easily to me, to say the least, as I think all my teachers would agree. However, the teachers at Wilberforce have tirelessly dedicated themselves to teaching and nurturing in me a growth mindset, for they have recognized my need for improvement. So, what is a growth mindset? A growth mindset is an attitude that is resilient in the face of failure, knowing that with hard work and dedication, a person can and will always improve. The opposite would be a fixed mindset, which is shown when a person faces failure, simply gives up, and says, “I can’t do this.” When I used to make a mistake on my math homework, I would immediately give up, uttering words of defeat. However, my teachers have regularly helped me to look at my mistakes as an opportunity for learning. I am continually reminded of the words in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.” I am not quite there yet, but I grow each and every day with the help of these teachers, who so deeply care for me. Now, when I get something wrong on my math, I try to have a growth mindset and think about how I can improve. My hope is that I will grow in this area to the point that failures will never be obstacles for me, but rather opportunities for growth and success.
The teachers have not only helped me to develop a growth mindset, but they have also helped me with another God-honoring skill: the ability to work in groups and be a part of a community. This seems to be quite purposeful, as God calls us to be members of a community in the Body of Christ. Throughout my years, teachers have often required group work, such as science labs, which proved a great opportunity for me to grown and become an integral part of the Wilberforce community. Group work has never been easy for me, as I often find it difficult to take other people’s suggestions, and I can be easily hurt when my suggestions are not accepted. Although I still have a long way to go before I can easily work with others, I am slowly learning how to sometimes put my ideas aside and accept other people’s ideas instead. When we learn to accept and respect other people’s ideas and work together, the result can be much more successful than when we work alone. God designed us this way: not to be alone, but to be in a community, as part of the body of Christ. Additionally, the middle and upper school house system at The Wilberforce School has given me other opportunities to work together in a community, learn to trust others, and meet people that I did not known well before. This has helped me to grow both socially and as a member of a team. For instance, last year in the house spelling bee, instead of being upset that I had made a mistake, I cheered on the remaining member of our team, realizing that it took the effort from all of us in order to win. When I was younger, I probably would not have understood the importance of this group effort, and how each member of a team is essential in working toward a united goal.
Along these lines, in the middle and upper school years, the school plans a retreat with the purpose of strengthening our skills of working together. This has given me yet another opportunity to work on my group skills. This year, I was finally able to go on the retreat, which strengthened my relationships with the other girls in my class and the other people in my house. On the retreat, one particular activity challenged my ability to work in a group; however, I was able to grow from the experience. During a game of laser tag, when I first started playing, I was not listening to the group strategy and was simply following my own plan, but I soon realized that this was not effective and was not helping my teammates. When I started listening to the group strategy and joined the team in a united effort, our team won, which helped me realize once again how essential it is to work together in a group. I am still working on my social skills and my ability to work in groups, but I am thankful that the teachers at The Wilberforce School provides so many opportunities for us to grow and develop as thriving and essential parts of the community. This is how God made us: to be a part of the body of Christ, each part necessary in order to serve and glorify Him. Romans 12:4-5 proclaims, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Although The Wilberforce School is not just a school about birds, as my seven-year-old self first thought, it is about something far greater. Deeply caring about my heart and my character, the amazing teachers at The Wilberforce School have dedicated themselves to teaching and guiding me, helping me become more of the person God desires me to be. For this I am truly grateful.
In the last 13 years of my life, one passion has remained strong and constant is my love of camping. Now, I have no intention of boring you all by talking about how best to camp, or even to recount for you various stories about camping. No, the purpose of this speech is to encourage you to enjoy nature to the very fullest, though actually camping is a great activity to do with any free day ... or two ... or seven.
Camping has a profound effect on the mind and soul. There’s nothing comparable to the solitude I feel when camping, because the detachment is so absolute. I never need to talk to anybody in passing, only the person I’m camping with. But not only do I not need to talk to other people, I don’t notice any trace of them. I don’t have to care at all what others are doing or thinking. When I am camping, I am able to forget it’s anyone but nature and me.
But what about camping gives me this warm fuzzy feeling? It’s not camping for the sake of camping. Didn’t I say this wasn’t about camping? What’s amazing about camping is how close it puts a person to nature. Typically we move far too fast through our day-to-day lives to look at the natural things all around us; instead, the only places we focus on are what what we do and what we want to do. I urge you all to take more time to observe whatever little bit of nature you might happen to notice, because I can guarantee you will always find something there you didn’t see before. From the puniest of pebbles to the tallest of trees, you could never see all the details.
Now I’ll tell you this; I did not learn to look so closely while I was camping. I learned it right here, at The Wilberforce School. You may ask who taught me this, and I would answer that every teacher who has ever taught me has impressed upon me to some extent the importance of these smallest of details. Whether is be Dr. Pratt, taking off a full point for the exclusion of one tiny long mark, or Dr. Ristuccia, handing back my essay to correct my single misplacement of an apostrophe, or perhaps Mrs. Vardeman, giving me no credit at all, because I forget to flip the negative exponents. These are just some representative examples; but trust me, the number is not limited.
This attention to detail is something I would say has had an incredible impact on the way I perceive the world around me. So the next time a teacher “gets on your case” to correct what you may consider to be the most minor or minuscule of missed points, I hope you will remember what I have said about just how important a small detail can be. For another example, let’s think of our own bodies. Very little has to happen for us to die, with a body so complex. The same might be true of a math problem, or a house of cards; if one sign were flipped, or one card goes missing, the entire thing might collapse.
Such minute details are neither small nor unimportant, and neither are you. Listen to your teachers, keep your eyes on the details, and one day, it will all pay off --maybe today.
In my eight years of going to The Wilberforce school, I have learned many important lessons along the way, lessons that came from each of the teachers at this school. I would like to highlight a few of my teachers who have most influenced me. To begin, I have not only had Ms. Chong as my teacher for Explorers One, but also as my music teacher for many years. Throughout these many years of Ms. Chong’s teaching me, she has always wanted me (and the whole class) to work hard at our tasks, even when those tasks were difficult. Even now, whenever I walk into Ms. Chong’s classes, I always know that she will help me do well, and will always do her best to help me succeed at everything I do.
Another teacher who has really made a significant impact on me during my time here at this school is Mr. Young. Mr. Young always has me work hard and take great care in all of my assignments. Mr. Young also always embodies the principles of this school because he helps me and others to strive for greater heights, and to always work diligently at whatever we are doing. Because Mr. Young has invested in me in this way, he has really enabled me to become a better student and to be proud of the work that I do.
A third teacher who has really helped me is Mr. Yang. Mr. Yang is always excited and eager to help if students who are having trouble comprehending a concept. This eagerness directly affect me because sometimes I have trouble with understanding certain math or science concepts. As soon as Mr. Yang sees that I am having trouble, he always eagerly assists me, and that eagerness inspires me to want to work harder and put in the effort so that I can really understand the very concepts that I was having trouble with before. Another way Mr. Yang has really affected me is his encouraging me to ask more questions. Questioning has really helped me because, by my presenting my concerns during class, Mr. Yang is able to see which concepts I do not understand and which I have mastered. In addition, asking questions doesn’t only help me, it helps the entire class because, if I ask a question and someone else has that same question (but has not voiced it), by my asking the question, my classmate receives a needed answer.
The last teacher who I will talk about and who have really aided me in my academic career is Dr. Steen. In the two years of Dr. Steen teaching me, she has really guided me in grasping topics that I was having a hard time understanding. Dr. Steen does this by answering any questions to the best of her ability; in fact, she sometimes pulling me aside after class to ask me if I have any questions about anything we have been studying in class. Another way Dr. Steen helped me is how she requires us to make oral corrections on all our tests; in directly explaining my corrections to her, I have a chance to think through my mistakes, as well as why the correct answer fits. As well, after saying the corrections aloud, the corrections actually stay with me so that I don’t make the same mistakes again: I learn from my errors.
Throughout all of my years at The Wilberforce School, not only have my teachers helped me to become a better student, but also they have also encouraged me to grow closer to God. By holding a prayer session at the beginning of every single day, and by sponsoring various other small groups, our teachers have created great fellowship. By praying together about anything weighing on our minds, by talking with each other, by listening to messages, we students increase our devotion to our Lord. What I am saying is that, after my ten years here at The Wilberforce School, I have come to understand what our school is all about. Thank you for letting me share my perspectives. I hope my ideas have inspired some of your own.
My time at The Wilberforce School has been nothing short of incredible. This school has taught me so much both about my spiritual and about my “worldly” life, truths that I would not have otherwise learned. It is such an incredible blessing to be a part of the Wilberforce community.
Before I came to Wilberforce, I had been one of the only Christians at my previous school. While this fact had no effect on my friendships or overall experience, my school life always felt a little weird. I would often receive questions like “What is that cross that you always wear around your neck, and why do you even wear it?” Well, to be quite honest with you, I didn't know how to fully come up with an answer for those questions apart from the words “because I’m a Christian.” Of course, at the time I knew my faith and I believed in it, but my faith life didn't really go beyond that. I always knew it was the correct thing to believe in Christianity, yet I didn't know why; I just believed.
Well, Wilberforce opened my eyes and taught me the “why.” I finally learned about the core of my religion and the wonders of the Bible, a book which I did not read too often prior to coming to Wilberforce. In Class Six alone, I nearly read and studied the entire Old Testament in-depth. Now, I feel so blessed to say that I have studied in-depth most of the entire Bible. My Bible teachers throughout the year taught me facts about the Bible that I had never even begun to consider thinking about before entering Wilberforce! And for those teachers and that opportunity, I am forever grateful.
Aside from the seemingly never ending spiritual benefit I received from Wilberforce, this school has opened my eyes to so many experiences related to the world around me. At this school, I learned about incredible topics such as Debate, Logic, Molecular Biology, Technology, Chemistry, Composition Writing, Literature, History, and Latin. The lessons that this school have taught me have made me a much more deep and well-rounded person. I have met people from many different ethnic backgrounds, students incredible and interesting personalities. From my time at Wilberforce, I have made powerful friendships with some of the absolute most hilarious and enjoyable people I have ever met. And, Wilberforce makes these relationships so much better because together we all believe in the love of Christ, and so we bond over that love whether expressed in the House Competitions, the annual school retreat, team projects, and just spending time together throughout the school day. My fellow students have made me laugh to the point where I can laugh no more, become confused over the funniest things, and enjoy my life more than I ever had before. I am forever grateful for the group of friends that I have gained, because I love each of them so much.
All in all, my time at Wilberforce has been life changing. I truly could never express the amount of gratitude I have for everything and everyone in this school, and I would not have wanted my life to turn out any other way. My hope for each of you is that you will have a similar experience in your Wilberforce years.
Noah van Leeuwen
Good morning, I am Noah van Leeuwen, and today I shall be sharing with you about all the positive experiences and lessons I have received during my time here at Wilberforce.
Perhaps the most important of the lessons have been about leading a Christ-centered life. No one is perfect, but if you look at my life before going to vs. after going to The Wilberforce School, you would definitely notice a change in me. The way I speak and how I act is significantly different. This may have something to do with the fact that beforehand I was twelve, and I spent a majority of my free time thinking mainly about myself. Now I believe that you could find that self-preoccupation appears in a lot of younger kids, but I feel like if I never come to Wilberforce, I wouldn't have changed, and, even if I did, it would have been as dramatic of a change as it is. In our school,l there have been many role models whose character traits, or mindsets, I personally have sought after. These people helped me realize that no one’s life is truly complete without God, and that there are mature and responsible ways to deal with any of the many problems life throws your way.
In our modern world, there exist many sinful distractions, especially those on the Internet. Before I came to Wilberforce I went to a public school, and in that environment I allowed myself to be someone I wasn’t, with the chief aim of all my actions being to impress others. With our modern world, this will happen far too easily. At Wilberforce I have been released from living to impress others. I have been urged to be myself, instead of just what I thought people wanted. This also encouraged me to start reading the Bible more frequently. It showed me how to live a good life, and I have been incredibly happy with my outlook on life. Going to school became a pleasure, and I looked forward to it.
With the school’s retreats, special events, lunches, and even the short time between periods, I have come to make wonderful and exciting new memories with my classmates and my other friends. The community between the students at our school is quite remarkable. It is always a joyous experience whenever our class” hangs out,” and these events have resulted in some of the best memories in my life. I am truly thankful for my class and my friends, and that part of my life I am able to spend with them.
In conclusion, not only has The Wilberforce School given me some of the best experiences of my life, it has challenged me, and pushed me into a good trajectory for my life. Not bad for just a few years!
When I was in first grade, my mother bought me a series of biographies. It was like the Who Was series, except shorter, and with more illustrations. I loved those books. I read them over and over all the way through third grade. The series featured people like Oprah Winfry, Stephen Hawking, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhamad Ali, The Beatles, Pablo Picasso, and Walt Disney. My personal favorites were Leonardo Da Vinci and Bill Gates. When I entered first grade, I told my mom that my life’s goal was to have my own biography published. All I’d have to do was to lead a good life that people would look up to. Simple.
Well, it turned out that having a biography written about you is more complicated than that, but what I meant to say that day was that I too, like every other person in this room, wanted to be remembered for something. Like everyone else, I wanted to leave my mark on the world. But I had never thought of how I would achieve that goal. I didn’t even know what I would like to be remembered for. And I wasn’t a kid who particularly liked school. I loved sports, but achieving good grades just wasn’t on my to-do list. I still earned good grades, but I didn’t see the point of working hard in school. Luckily, that changed when I entered fourth grade.
In fourth grade, I moved from Korea to California. A lot of things changed for me. First, the language changed. The people who surrounded me changed. The way everything works changed. I had to learn how to write in cursive, and, every night, my teacher, Ms. Kayashima, had sit in her house and decode what I had written. I still have no idea how she fully decoded my messages.
People say that where you put yourself changes who you are. This saying was very true for me. The fact that every one of my assignments was being graded, then those grades were being recorded into a sheet of paper, and those accumulated grades that would ultimately determine my final marks now clearly registered in my brain. All my peers who cared about it had made me conscious of it. I started to care about grades and what my peers thought of me as a classmate. I started to try harder in math. I stayed up trying to finish my history assignment.
I had gone from an eight-year-old who only cared about soccer and baseball after school to a ten-year-old who did homework before going out to recess. That was really a big change for me in elementary school. I started to see the joys of education and, for the first time, I had fun learning. This change, in turn, gave me new goals. I wanted to become a doctor . . . then an engineer, then an architect. Now, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. But I still like algebra and chemistry. I still like to read and play sports. I’m still in the process of learning and failing and learning from those failures. And in that process, I find new meanings in life and new ideas about what I might want to be when I grow up.
So, don’t worry if right now you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Don’t worry if you don’t know what your dream job will be. Focus on finding something you like doing, or just sticking with the things you like most. That’s where you’re most likely to find the answer to that lifelong question: Who will you become, and how will you change the world? And maybe there is a biography in your future.