I was a freshman in a Philippine high school when the announcement rippled across campus: Anyone that was interested could take a test for admission into the Philippine Science High School, or P-Sci.
What a coup that’d be, I thought, to be admitted to P-Sci, the Harvard of Philippine high schools. My parents eagerly signed me up for the test. After all, what parent wouldn’t want their kid to go on to become a brilliant scientist? Not to mention go to school tuition-free as a government scholar?
Unfortunately, I didn’t make the cut. In my senior year, when some of my former classmates who made it to P-Sci visited our high school, I looked at them with school envy.
Years later, I’m going through that same school envy, this time on my children’s behalf. I’m often tempted to compare Grantsville schools with other schools in the area, equating academic success with building flashiness, stats in the newspaper sports sections and money spent on what-have-you.
And then I went to high school registration last week.
As I walked down the pathway to Grantsville High’s front doors, I paused to take in the faded brick façade. Over the years, the building’s had its share of wear and tear. But the grounds were clean and well-kept. It’s obvious that the school maintenance workers take pride in the facility.
I thought of the big city I grew up in and the problems associated with living in such a place. Thing is, my kids are lucky to attend Grantsville schools. Though it has its share of growing pains, Grantsville retains that small-town charm.
In the quiet of the afternoon, I sensed dignity and beauty in the building’s bones. At its heart are passionate and caring educators who’ve shepherded generations of students through its halls.
There is much more to a school than what meets the eye.
At that moment, I understood a couple of things. I understood why, when I was talking to a GHS alum a few weeks ago, he spoke enthusiastically about his alma mater. I understood how my oldest child manages to find gems in her high school experiences as she works with others on the yearbook.
In the lunchroom, registration lines formed at tables, where volunteer parents sat to help. The parents’ faces were familiar to me because they always help at events like registration, sports or fundraisers. Guilt hit me that instead of being part of the solution to what my kids’ schools are lacking, I tend to just grumble and complain from the sidelines.
I should look to my 16-year-old’s example. She recognizes the limitations of a smaller school, but she doesn’t waste her time feeling sorry for herself. She studies hard, challenges herself with extra work when she’s bored and aspires to lift her classmates.
After all, it’s not just the school experience that makes the student, but the student that makes the school experience.
Years have come and gone since I was in high school. I’ve lost track of my classmates who made it to P-Sci. No doubt many of them have turned out to be brilliant scientists. But you know what? I look at the life my schooling has led to, the choices I’ve made since, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at pink-ink-pink.blogspot.com