The Record

The importance of striking a balance

Lutie Brown, Columnist

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Extracurricular activities have been an integral part of my experience in high school, allowing me to be able to try new things, identify role models, delve into passions, make changes in both my community and myself, and find families that support me in all I do.

I came into Horace Mann as a wide-eyed freshman and stumbled into a completely new environment that not only promoted intellectual discourse through challenging academics, but also provided tremendous resources and support to help students achieve their individual visions of “success.” I came in without a plan (and don’t even have one to this day), but have instead been able to forge my own path to go where my heart desires.

I made it my mission to take part in extracurriculars after my weekend at Dorr for Upper Division Orientation (UDO), where I bonded with fellow freshmen, and met my upperclassmen mentors. I remember rocking out to “Stacey’s Mom” at karaoke night (and again at Disco Dorr) and being in awe of the performers at the talent show. It was a new experience from my former public school where the arts often went neglected in extracurriculars, leaving the emphasis on competitive STEM-related teams. I knew after that weekend that I wanted to be just like my mentors and perform as they had that night. Within the first days of school, I received a mass email promoting Spirit Squad—the hip-hop dance group that performs at Homecoming, the Student Choreographed Dance Concert, and Buzzell—and inviting anyone interested in joining to audition after school later in the week. Little did I know that I would find a caring dance family there, bonding with dancers of all grades who have mentored me throughout my high school career.

Joining Spirit Squad paved the way for my journey through theatre and dance for future years, from building sets to participating in numerous musicals. I was able to stretch out of my comfort zone, learning a German accent and operating a jigsaw, and developed greater self-assurance through performances and support from my peers. My confidence from performing and doing what I loved reached beyond theater, and into public speaking and self-expression.

At the Clubs Fair my freshman year, I was like a kid set loose in a candy store—I felt the need to devour each and everything, as all the organizations sounded incredible, so I indulged myself in any way I could. I took the leap to join the Record, a publication that simultaneously frightened and excited me. Joining the paper gave me invaluable interviewing and writing skills through experiences ranging from reaching out to administrators for interviews to the importance of concise and succinct writing. I was able to use these skills beyond the newspaper– in English and history papers, and discussions. It finally led me here, today, where I have an outlet to voice my thoughts and opinions to my community as a columnist.

I don’t mean to give a laundry-list of my extracurriculars, but as I reflected on my three years at the school while writing this column, I couldn’t help but feel immense pride, love, and appreciation for all my experiences both in and out of the classroom. I was able to accomplish all that I had set out to do from my first night as a member of the school, as I mentored and danced at UDO every year, and truly transformed from a wide-eyed, quiet freshman with clouds of ideas to an outspoken senior who has turned ideas into actions and inspired others to do the same.

Despite my transformation, along my journey, I had not only scaled mountains I had never even dreamt of, but had also let many things slip through cracks that led to chasms. Though taking on a plethora of extracurriculars was an overhaul for me, especially with my inability to wisely manage my time, I would never ask to go back in time to change my decisions to get a higher quiz or test grade. I learned lessons the hard way, followed my heart, and buried myself in activities while drowning out academics, rarely listening to sound advice from adults and peers I admired.

I do not recommend following my model, but instead hope to convey that although I gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge in the classroom, I grew the most through my exploration of extracurriculars and the results of risks I took along the way. As I move on to the next chapter of my life in college, I will forever hold onto both the connections I made with friends and family and the memories I created over my time at the school. I will continue learning more about myself and growing as a person, making a difference, motivating and mentoring others, dancing away my worries, writing for a publication, and applying the leadership techniques and lessons I have learned outside of the classroom to inspire others to do the same.

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The importance of striking a balance