Senior Column: Embrace high school

Elizabeth Bulat, Editor-in-chief

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“Yes!” I said after finishing the 3200 meter race at my 8th grade City Meet. I had just placed 2nd, running a personal best, and was asked if I was interested in joining the Rochester High School cross country team the coming fall. That was my first, and likely most influential, “yes” of high school.

My high school career was defined by all of the times I embraced an opportunity to be involved, improve myself or meet new people. All of my academic, athletic and community successes and participation was once rooted in a simple decision to say “yes.”

Joining the cross country team was an important decision in my life because running has greatly shaped who I have become throughout high school. I started running very inexperienced and I was somewhat indifferent to the sport. However, Coach Adams fostered my athletic ability and trained me to become a competitive runner in the state. Becoming a strong runner improved my confidence not only in athletics, but also in academic and social settings. Running has also introduced me to some of my best friends and it has brought me around the state and country to compete. Furthermore, running acted as a catalyst for my future, as I was given opportunities to continue my athletic career at a college level. I wouldn’t have had any of these experiences if it wasn’t for the defining opportunity to run cross country that I grasped at my 8th grade city track meet.

Saying “yes” to new opportunities should be easy, but what I think what holds people back from this simple task is the fear that they may not be met with the same enthusiasm from the opportunity itself. In other words, I find that some people worry about whether they will be accepted to embrace a new opportunity, causing them to not take advantage of it.

My freshman year I applied to Student Council at Rochester. I was confident that I would be a strong addition to the class with my leadership background and participation in many extra-curriculars. However, I was defeated when I found out that I didn’t get in. This was the first time in my life when I wasn’t successful at something that I had set a goal and worked for. At first it discouraged me from participating in high school activities, because I realized that every opportunity wouldn’t always meet me halfway.

Through this experience, however, I became more driven to be involved. Although I never applied to Student Council again, I joined clubs like Class Ambassadors, The Talon, NHS, French Club, FNHS, Captain’s Club, Reach, and Powerlifting at RHS. In addition to my sports, these clubs kept me busy and involved in the school while providing me with leadership opportunities. I also started some of my own events at RHS, like the Falcon Friendship Game, and was a founding member of the English National Honors Society. I learned that although I didn’t have the title of being in Student Council, I could still lead a leadership-centered lifestyle. Reflecting back on high school, I’m now thankful that I didn’t get in student council my freshman year because I have since grown as a person and become bolder in pursuing opportunities.

Taking advantage of many ways to be involved has caused me to make assumptions or predictions about what I’ll gain from an experience. However, my expectations for activities continually are exceeded, for I tend to underestimate how influential a simple opportunity may be. For instance, I first ran Breen Track Club the winter of my junior year. I thought that I was joining a running club that would merely prepare me for my Spring track season. However, joining that track program introduced me to teammates who I developed strong relationships with and who made me a more competitive and confident runner. These aspects of running were monumental for my outdoor track season and gave me a fresh perspective on the sport.

Another lesson that I’ve learned from being involved is that it protects one from relying on one activity for success and satisfaction. Early in high school, I found my identity mostly in sports. When I got injured my sophomore year during cross country season, I felt lost and confused about what activity would take its place as my priority. This situation illustrated how much I had emphasized running compared to everything else and revealed to me that I needed to pursue a healthier balance of activities in my life. My relationship with God was strengthened during this time and I became more involved in my church and made my faith the foundation for everything. After this experience, I was able to approach new and old activities with a more courageous and clear view.

Truly, I’ve been very involved during my high school years and have had many memorable experiences from them. I encourage other people to take advantage of every opportunity they face. Being involved in school, church, sports, and the community have provided me with a unique perspective on life and a wide network of connections. The halls of Rochester High are brimming with opportunities and possibilities to be involved, and all you need to do is seize them. Maintaining an open mind and bold approach to all that high school offers will ensure an extraordinary four years of growth and experiences; it sure did for me!