Sidelined no more

Alex Baca is a sophomore at The Met and a high-school intern at SN&R

This fall, I transferred from Sacramento High School, a large school with roughly 2,000 students in Oak Park, to The Met, a charter high school with 90 students in Midtown. I’m finally growing accustomed to walking in, greeting my adviser and having her guide me according to my own personal projects.

Many things at Sac High did not work well for me. When I came in through the dark iron gates, I saw tightly formed cliques and fell into the ranks. Every day, the hive buzzed with racial and gang tensions that sometimes escalated into violence. The staff was outnumbered and had no choice but to think of everyone as a potential problem. Some kids had more drugs in their backpacks than books. I was herded from classroom to classroom to take tests that made me think not that the sky was the limit, but that I had to stop at the clouds. School was a place that I didn’t want to be.

In The Met, I’ve found someplace I do want to be—and people who want me to be there. When I walk into the Old Marshall School building, I see no tightly formed cliques, no racial tension and no gangs. I see a community of diverse individuals who work comfortably together. The students enjoy being there and talk to the teachers as friends. I’ve seen no fights, and problems are talked out peacefully through mediation.

Instead of mindless tests of memorization, I have exhibitions, where my work is documented and I present it to a panel. I show them things that no Scantron testing device could, and I’m proud of my work for the first time in a year. Because of the attention that I get in a smaller school, I feel like a person instead of a nameless number, free to explore education with a more positive attitude.

The “one kid at a time” environment has helped me and many other Met students. We no longer sit on the sidelines as learning happens to us, but take an active and enthusiastic role in our own education.

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