Senior Column: This is just the beginning


Kiersten Miller

Senior Photo taken at the Meadow Brook Hall

Kari Eickholdt, Editor-In-Chief

Rummaging through the old journals shoved in the depths of my untouched closet, I devoted those worn out pages to my adolescent crushes, my biggest dreams, my worries in the world, and the thing I would delve on the most; who was I going to become in high school?

Now looking back, these past four years of my life spent at Rochester High have only shaped a fraction of who I’m becoming. High school was not a movie in any means but it had its moments and its people that I will keep with me forever. 

I can say this now, my biggest crush throughout all of elementary school was not pursued in high school. My simplistic dreams have now turned complex with multiple avenues, my worries have grown with awareness to my surroundings, and I have been changing continuously. 


Learning to Smile 

I started off my freshman year at Rochester High School as a “brace face,” or at least that’s what my parents would call me jokingly. Having the metal restraints on for nearly three years was nevertheless degrading to how I perceived my self image. Entering a higher level of education as a guppy with a metal guard on her teeth was prone to insecurities beyond the surface. How flushed my cheeks would be once I showed off my smile, the pain of getting wires tightened and not wanting to talk, and the disgust of getting food stuck in between. 

After what seemed like forever, I got my braces off in the fall of my freshman year. I was on the Junior Varsity Cheer Team for sideline cheer in the fall season and one of the most important aspects is to have a show presence; or, as the program taught me, “If you do not feel ridiculous, then you’re not giving enough facial expressions.”  

The timing was perfect. My natural smile took some time to get used to because with no braces, the muscle memory in my face was overbearing and telling me to “smile like your life depends on it.” My awkward phase was at its peak during this time but I found the importance of a smile. 

In cheer, if I were cheering sideline at the game and chanting loud enough until I thought my voice would pop, I would smile through the exhaustion. As I got comfortable with my new smile, I noticed an increase in my overall happiness. Like the domino effect, I found that smiling can not only brighten my own mood, but also the others around me. 


Varsity Cheerleading State Championship 

Sophomore year I made the Varsity Cheer Team. Having an older sister who is a Rochester Alumni and a Rochester Cheer State Champion (2009), I had always wanted to follow her footsteps and achieve that accomplishment myself. 

Training for a state championship title absolutely had its challenges. We had our fair amount of severe failures and the moments of greatness. I won’t sugar coat it either. Being the youngest girl on that team, alongside my two good friends who were also sophomores, it would have been easy to be blamed. Though that was not the case with this group of girls. 

We had our arguments and frustrations when nothing was going right. But our will to push ourselves to our peak of greatness nevertheless persevered in the end. I had spent nearly 11 years aspiring to step foot on the blue mats at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids and there I was, about to perform on those pristine blue mats in front of thousands. 

The announcer projected us to place 8th overall (which is last place, as there are only 8 teams that advance to the state level in Division 1).  Midway through the competition, we had come to find out that we were less than a point away from first place. In cheerleading, the way the point system works is that you could be in 3rd place and only be .12 points away from winning the state title. 

The ending results placed our team in third, leaving us less than a point away from state runner-up. I felt like my world was spinning, this was the best feeling I had felt that year, and even though I wasn’t a state champion, I remained extremely proud of our journey and proud for pushing myself beyond my own limits. 

To make that day even dreamier, as we were dancing on the blue mats before the final results were in, my team got into a circle and locked arms to sing “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus. That song defined our journey that year and would make us all red-eyed and tearful as we would sing and sway together. To our surprise, the gym became vibrant as thousands of spectators heard our song and lifted up their lights to sway with us. The other teams joined in and no matter what any of us placed, it took so much for us all to be where we were that day. I will cherish that memory until the day I die. 


International Business Internship Program (IBIP)

Junior year was a roller coaster. My coursework was manageable, however, the SAT was not my friend. Personally, I believe that my test taking abilities were far from the best and that is because I would constantly second guess myself, overthink, or manage to go through the mix of the two. 

Aside from stressing myself out, I was approached by one of my good friends in that she was awarded a scholarship to attend a medical summit to Georgetown University, MA, granted to her by one of my favorite human beings, RHS AP United States History Teacher, Mr. Zwolinski. 

While attending the medical summit, my friend was then given the opportunity to lead a team of her choosing in the Non-Profit International Business Internship Program (IBIP). She had asked me if I would be willing to join her team.  I most definitely said yes, as this was an opportunity that was unique and an experience that will forever keep me humble. 

I was chosen to take on the role as the Media Chair and have been a part of this amazing role for two years. As the Media Chair I would form connections with the local press, radio, and tv stations in order to inform the public about the program, organized team recognition and used social platforms for possible recruitment of other students, and created our  team website.

 Over the span of two years, our team has aided struggling small businesses based in Bauchi, Nigeria. Our first year, we raised and donated a total of roughly $1000 to the Shifa Royal Hospital in Bauchi. Furthermore, we curated a budgeting plan and template for the hospital as a part of the financial advisement team. Our second year, we had aided a Nigerian man in his Carpentry Business in Bauchi. The main tasks accomplished were a budgeting system and advertisement alongside additional fundraising efforts. 

On a weekly basis, we would have a Skype meeting with our IBIP adviser and had assigned tasks personal to our specialty. On occasion, we were able to Skype with the small business owner directly alongside a translator. 

It truly was the highlight of my week whenever we were able to speak with our business partner directly because I’ve learned so much about the Nigerian culture, have become acclimated to their accents, and have learned about their family life and how society is run. 

As much as this was a wonderful learning process for myself, I was able to go through it with some of the most genuine friends beside me. Our team of 5, the first year, spent our Tuesday evenings working for IBIP and once our tasks were completed, we would spend what felt like hours watching “try not to laugh” videos on YouTube. Forewarning of some crude humor, I’m most positive we all went through some form of seasonal depression our junior year, yet, I grew closer to each individual during that time in shared laughs and frustrations. 


A pandemic 

The closer I got to my senior year in high school, the more bittersweet reality became. I had many friendships in the class above me which is how I observed their excitement and sorrows over the lasting senior events and transition into their freshman year of college that they experienced. 

The first last day of my high school journey felt very odd to say the least. The underclassmen seemed so young to me and unrecognizable. I truly felt older and on top of things at the start. The buzz of applying to desirable colleges, working a part-time job, balancing school and play, running the school newspaper, and joining multiple clubs definitely kept me in a vacuum tight schedule. It was overwhelming at times, yet, I found the midst of my senior year to be most enjoyable by expanding myself in making friendships anywhere I could. 

I took part in the most wonderful peer mentoring program at RHS for Cognitively Impaired students in room D119. Mrs. Campbell, one of our special-ed teachers, was one of the most genuine, kind hearted, and patient people I have ever met. Through being a peer mentor, I was able to ignite friendships with my peers and learn from what they wanted to teach me. The most curious, kind, and funny people that I am honored to say are my friends. As I am naturally an impatient person, taking this class helped me grow as an individual in great lengths. 

I never would have imagined my senior year ending the way it did. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) world-wide pandemic. My last day of high school ended the way it started. The odd feeling of uncertainty as rumors of school closings in our district were underway. 

Bad news after bad news has led me now to tune it out. The connections maintained between my peers, teachers, family, friends, and community has made me become in-tune with myself. 

As a high school senior who is not able to live through the moments that I’ve been looking forward to since my naive beginning, this is just the start. The future may never look “normal” ever again, but here I am on the considerable cliffhanger of our existence awaiting for the new normal.