Current Student's Perspective about the Infinite Possibilities Available at The Gatton Academy


Senior Reflection: Michael Belcher

belcher, michael 21Two years ago, I was in the middle of my last summer before moving into The Gatton Academy. My mother was busy buying me supplies for school that appeared to cover every scenario from a study session to surviving the apocalypse and I was busy working on my procrastination skills by not packing. I remember being incredibly excited for the change that the Academy would bring, but also nervous about it not living up to my expectations. I struggled with the same fears of social awkwardness and difficult classes that hundreds of Gatton students must have had before me. After two years spent playing video games, pulling all-nighters, playing Frisbee, and hanging out with some of the greatest people I have ever met I look back at myself that summer before junior year and laugh. The Academy exceeded my expectations in almost every conceivable way. I was able to take some of the most challenging and intriguing classes that I have ever taken with professors I admire greatly, had the privilege to do research and get to know the Ferhan and Mustafa Atici duo that made my smile every time we had a meeting, and get to travel to some of the coolest places on the planet. Looking back after the two best years of my life up until this point I can’t help but smile at how much I have change from these last two years of Calculus, eating Chick-fil-A, and incredible memories.

While the memories and experiences that I have taken away from my two years at the Academy are amazing, the people I met and spent my time with along the way are invaluable. Over the last couple years, I have struggled through classes, eaten way too much pizza, and played hours of Frisbee with some of the most incredible people I have ever met. Whether it was being loud and crazy together on second floor or having fun pranking each other on wing, I would not trade a single day at Gatton for anything. Gatton students were not the antisocial nerds that I had feared, they were some the most driven, caring, and supportive people I have ever met. The members of my graduating class are and always will be my Gatton family and I can’t wait to see what we all do with the next years in our lives.

Since graduating and coming home just a couple months ago it seems like everyone wants to know if I regret coming to Gatton and moving away two years early. I could never fully explain all that Gatton has done for me and how much I cherish the two years that I had there, but I will say that the last two years of my life have been by far the best to date. My decision to come to Gatton introduced me to some of the best people I have ever known, allowed me to grow both academically and socially, and gave me memories that I will value for the rest of my life.

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Senior Reflection: Annie B. Wetzel

wetzel, annie b 2I sat in the McDonald’s parking lot on Move-In Day with my parents shedding tears for the two years we were about to spend apart. In that moment, I couldn’t help but think of all the things I would be missing out on while I was away. The family dinners, nights with friends, football games, playing tennis. I wasn’t thinking of the new and exciting opportunities that The Gatton Academy would offer. I would now be challenged in the classroom. I could participate in undergraduate level research. I could travel to places I had read about and once dreamed of seeing. I would be forging friendships that would last a lifetime.

It isn’t easy to pack your bags and leave home two years early. There is a lot of maturing that must occur in the short span of a summer before arriving at the Academy. I tried to envision myself climbing the hill of Western, taking classes in a huge room filled with unfamiliar faces, working countless hours at my desk studying, but it wasn’t enough to prepare me to say my final goodbyes on that rainy Move-In Day. I still mourned the loss of the two years at home I would never get back.

Looking back on that tear-soaked day, my parents and I laugh at the time we spent in the McDonald’s parking lot. The Gatton Academy was a life changing and wonderful experience. I can honestly say I would not be in the same position I am today if I had not attended The Gatton Academy.

Days at the Academy pass so quickly. It seemed like as soon as my 7:15 AM alarm rang I would be climbing back into bed to set it again at nightfall. In the last few months of school, I wished the days would go by faster. I was ready for the next step in my life. I wasn’t thinking about the few precious moments the Academy still had to offer. It wasn’t until graduation that it all hit me. I stood beside my classmates and tried to take a mental picture of their faces. I knew in that moment that we were never going to be Gatton students again. We were going to be alums—the frequently mentioned “grandseniors.” Our time at the Academy was soon to be over.

I had the strangest feeling walking out of the auditorium after my tassel had been repositioned to the left side of my cap. I was perfectly content. My entire life was in order and Gatton was largely to thank. Everything I had hoped for as a young girl had come true. The moments I wept for lost time and urged for time to go by faster seemed senseless. It had all worked out as it was meant to be.

I am often asked if I would attend Gatton again if I had the choice. I always say yes. There is nothing I would change about my experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Academy and couldn’t imagine spending those two short years any other way. It has ultimately brought me to where I am today. I thank the Gatton Academy for more than a great education. They gave me true happiness and hope for the future I have always dreamed of.

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Senior Reflection: Niven Achenjang

achenjang, niven 2It feels weird to sit here and begin to type out my senior reflection. Not just because I only graduated a few weeks ago; not just because it has not hit me that Gatton has ended; not just because the Gatton Facebook page is still active; not just because I have seen some of my fellow graduates recently, but because I am typing this a few days after it was due. If there is something people do not realize about Gatton students, it is that many of us (or at the very least me) have a habit of procrastinating assignments.

These past two years at Gatton were the strangest of my life, and I would not have them any other way (Well, no curfew would have been nice). I entered Gatton with few expectations and an unlimited supply of worries, all of which were quickly dealt with. Will everyone be anti-social, only focusing on academics? Not even close. Gatton is so much more than coursework (although that is important), and the community is far from anti-social. Will I be able to take the classes I want, or will these be two years of just general education classes? In the past two years, I have taken 2 philosophy classes, 4 computer science classes, and 8 math classes, so I am going to call this a yes. Will I stop running regularly and become slow and out of shape? Unfortunately, that did happen.

Despite what I gave up (running ability, time with friends/family, frequently eating at 2 Amigos, etc.), Gatton was worth it. It gave me interesting classes, study abroad opportunities, research experience, and all that other jazz you would expect on a Gatton pamphlet, but more so than those, Gatton was full of a lot of memorable little things. It had ultimate frisbee games (almost) daily, late night discussions lasting until 3 in the morning, multiple-hour long walks to GADS, etc. At Gatton, we reduced entire sentences to single words (Ex. “Do you want to go get food?” → “food?”), had real life poke wars, took Derick’s advice that “if a door is unlocked, that means you are allowed to go through it” a little more seriously than he intended, and both started and finished projects and 10-page papers in a single night.

Looking back on my two years at Gatton, they were not spent at a typical school, doing typical school things, They were spent forming inside jokes, becoming a part of and evolving a culture, partially losing my ability to speak English goodly, and creating stories I will remember for a long time. My takeaway from Gatton is not college credit and academic preparedness, but it is what I learned from my time outside of class. It’s the friendships I forged, the lessons I learned, and the fact that I really do not like to do my work until its due the next day.

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Senior Reflection: Seth Marksberry

marksberry, sethWhen I came to The Gatton Academy, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew Gatton was a place known for great scholarship and a community like no other. Having graduated, I now know what the Academy really offered to its students. Yes, the community was full of great students who always looked out for each other, and any student can attest to the high academic standards everybody holds themselves to. There was, and surely still is, something else to the Academy which is rarely observed by the public.

Like many in my class, I was warned time and time again by senior students and staff that Gatton challenges even the best students. “You’re going to have to study to do well,” they repeated over and over again. And I believed them. I tried to never get (too far) behind on my work. My first semester went well, and I couldn’t help but think it really hadn’t been that hard. Sure it was a challenge compared to what I would have been doing at my home high school, but this was not the monumental challenge college was supposed to be. Perhaps this was easier than everybody made it out to be.

Three subsequent semesters, two research projects, and countless late nights spent studying firmly disproved me. The classes got harder, and I had to adapt and work at my classes like never before. I learned there is no such thing as an easy college experience and that learning at that level requires a lot of hard work no matter what caliber of student you are. Thankfully, none of us had to go through these experiences alone.

My graduating class consisted of fifty-eight of the hardest-working high school students in the Commonwealth, but this was not what we thought about each other. Those fifty-seven people who walked across the stage with me became my family. These were the ones who were up late with me when there was an important test the next day. When one of us didn’t understand what an integral was, there was always somebody close by to help. Sure there were arguments, but there was also camaraderie, sincerity, and several terrible puns.

There is still one aspect of the Academy few really realize until pomp and circumstance begins to play. Gatton has an attitude. Not an attitude problem, but an attitude. A spirit, if you will. Gatton is a place where microbes can be considered pets, it’s alright to approximate the speed of an unladen swallow, and where people calculate whether or not the sky is actually the limit as ambition approaches infinity. At Gatton, I found people who are legitimately excited about science and wanted to create a better future. This is the essence of the Academy: a group of smart students who aren’t afraid to care.

Gatton for me became a place I wasn’t afraid to explore the world of science and where dreaming big was encouraged rather than laughed at. My home high school tried to indoctrinate me with the belief that the purpose of high school was to take classes, pass tests, and get an okay job like everybody else. An aspiring engineer like myself struggled to find any real encouragement to pursue such lofty dreams. Gatton helped me turn my dreams into goals and taught me to never give up on them. For that, I owe The Gatton Academy my eternal gratitude.

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Senior Reflection: Saadia Akhtar

akhtar, saadiaIt still hasn’t sunk in that I have graduated. It still hasn’t sunk in that I won’t be coming back to Gatton this fall. Or that my friends won’t be down the hall from me. Or that the whole building will share a common culture, a common identity.

In the weeks leading up to graduation, I refused to think about what my life would be like after I graduated. In fact, I refused to say the word “graduation.” I was in denial that my Gatton experience would be ending. Now, you may be wondering, many people graduate high school, get over yourself Saadia. However, I didn’t just graduate from high school, I ended a significant two years of my life- two years that I will never forget.

I moved in junior year expecting to live in a building full of nerds with no social graces and in a high-intensity environment. Looking back upon that moment, I laugh. That’s what everyone expects from Gatton, isn’t it? I quickly learned that Gatton is nothing like that. Gatton is a family. We have our own traditions (singing “Piano Man” last at every dance), our own culture (Ultimate Frisbee, anytime, anywhere), our own slang (Gattops, Accountabillabuddy), and our own problems (CPS). Just like a real family, we help each other get through our struggles. We help each other debug our codes, help each other pass Pesterfield or Minter’s class, and help each other navigate through life. I met some amazing people who helped me do just that.

Despite only knowing them for two years, I have made some incredibly strong bonds from friendship, bonds that I won’t ever break. I cherish every moment I spent with them, from hanging out in the common area, decorating the wings, walking around campus at 10:15, to studying abroad in England.

I’ve had to give up quite a bit to come to Gatton- friends, family time, driving, etc. Was it worth it? I’ve dwelled on this question for quite a bit and I believe I have found my answer- yes, it was definitely worth it. Not only was it worth it for the two years of college credit, the friends, research opportunities, and travel abroad opportunities, but it was especially worth it for how much I grew and learned over the past two years.

Coming from a high school where I was known as the “smart kid,” I had no other identity. And during my freshmen and sophomore years I was okay with that. It wasn’t until I came to Gatton, where everyone was the “smart kid,” that I realized my persona had a lot more to it than just intelligence. Soon, people started describing me as “shade-thrower” and “opinionated.”

I also realized what it truly meant to struggle and work hard. Quite frankly, my home high school barely challenged me. Even the AP classes were easy to me and did not require much effort on my part. Gatton, however, was a whole other ballgame. I mentioned earlier how Gatton wasn’t a high-intensity environment. It’s true that the building isn’t dead quiet with people furiously working on their laptops, but Gatton can definitely be stressful. One hundred and twenty teens taking college courses is no easy task. I realized very early on in the first semester that my old habits wouldn’t cut it. Over the past two years, I’ve worked harder than I ever have and have not maintained the 4.0 GPA that I used to be so prideful of. However, for every grade I received, I felt like I earned it.

These past two years bring with them a flood of emotions. On one hand I am happy to be done with high school, but on the other hand, I am sad to be leaving Gatton and its community. Even though my time at Gatton is over, my legacy is not. I will proudly say, for the rest of my life, that I went to The Gatton Academy for high school. I also know that if I ever wish to visit, Gatton will welcome me with open arms.

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2016 Winter Break

Akhtar, Saadia 2By:  Saadia Akhtar

Western Kentucky University offers a three week period in the month of January in which students are given the option of taking a class. However, Gatton requires all of its students to do something during this period, as high schoolers regularly just have a two week winter break, not five. Gatton provides funding for winter term, which can be used during winter term or during the summer in between junior and senior year to help pay for the Harlaxton study abroad program. Academy students are allowed to take classes on campus (and stay at Gatton), take an online class from home, do a service project to get volunteer hours, or study abroad.

This year, Gatton offered two study abroad opportunities- Costa Rica and Italy. Costa Rica is a fun option for those interested in Biology, as the trip is a research course that is held in the forests of Costa Rica. Italy has no credit-bearing option and allows students to have a nice and relaxing time to explore sites such as the Coliseum and Galleria dell’Accademia.

Winter term is a good opportunity for students to fulfill a class requirement (like U.S. History), get service hours that Gatton requires (to graduate with honors), or expand their horizons through traveling.


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Marksberry, Seth 1By:  Seth Marksberry

On October 14th every junior at Gatton took the PSAT, an exam similar to the SAT. Students are required to take the PSAT (or NMSQT) in order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. Gatton consistently has many students qualify for the top award of National Merit Finalist, along with many semifinalists and honorable mentions. As a result, our students take the test very seriously. Many reported using preparatory books and online resources in hope of attaining the highest score they can.

In all of the excitement of the juniors taking their PSAT, many seniors were enjoying the benefits of their high scores on last year’s test. The cutoff for semifinalists this year was a score of 210 out of 240. Each semifinalist is required to take a regular SAT in order to become a finalist. Tagging along with some of these prospective finalists (I had tests of my own to take that day), I could see their sense of excitement and anxiety about the test. This SAT was the last standardized test many of them will have to take in their high school career, so I’m sure it will be a relief no matter what score comes back.

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Travel to Harlaxton

Marksberry, Seth 1By: Seth Marksberry

During the latter half of this past summer, forty-eight of our current seniors embarked on a trip that has worked its way into Gatton tradition: the Harlaxton Experience. During this trip, which lasts three weeks, students are given the opportunity to take English 200.

English 200 is an introductory literature course. Over the duration of the class, students are introduced to pieces written by some of the literary greats such as Shakespeare, Keats, and Lawrence. While most courses in literature would settle for a review of pieces and a few author biographies, the curriculum in England is much different.

After a lesson about a particular author and his or her works, students were then treated to a day of visiting locations related to the pieces and authors we had just learned about. For example, after our lesson on the works of Shakespeare, we visited Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. It was truly amazing for myself and my fellow students to be able to experience literature in this setting. I think I can speak for all of us and say we are glad we did it. Anybody who is a current junior and wondering about going on this trip, trust me, you want to go. You will be happy you went.

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Wayne, Jeremiah 2By: Jeremiah Wayne

For most students, the Gatton Academy is their first time having a roommate. Sure, we have all been to camp and spent the night at friends houses before, but actually living with someone for 2 years is a whole other ball game. When I was first accepted, I was warned of the dangers of rooming with someone I know. Most students at the academy don’t, and instead the staff handpicks roommates based upon a personality survey. But it just so happened that a longtime friend of mine had also been accepted and we both thought it would make our transition easier if we roomed together. So we did, and I earnestly believe that I made the right choice.

My roommate and I have had tons of good times together, but we have also hit some bumps in the road. People told us that ALL roommates eventually have their first fight, and after that the masks come off. Well, they weren’t wrong. My roommate and I had our first argument over something very silly in afterthought.

After using the bathroom one day, I discovered that our toilet wasn’t flushing properly (it wasn’t clogged, rather broken). I told my roommate and he took off the tank cover to pull on the chain underneath. Nothing happened. After deciding our best approach to the situation was to give it some time and then again try later, he left the tank cover leaning against the toilet and we left. Whenever we came back, he accidentally tripped over the cover and we both watched it slowly slip down the side of the toilet. For a moment, it stopped, stuck on a groove in the tile, and both my roommate and I looked at one another with an expression of great relief. Only to look down and watch it slip again and then shatter into practically a million ceramic fragments. There was no repairing it, no hiding it. We both knew it was going to have to be replaced. And once we had to decide who was at fault, our friendship was in danger of becoming the next thing that shattered. He felt I should pay for part of it since I technically was the last to use it before it broke, which prompted him to remove the lid in the first place. But I felt that since I didn’t remove the cover, lean it against the toilet, or knock it over, that he was at fault.

Ultimately, Gatton ended up having an extra and we didn’t have to buy a new one. But that didn’t change the fact that we still had disagreed over the person at fault. And ever since then, my roommate and I have been much more open with each other. Whenever we are irritated by one another, we say it right then and there and don’t let our frustrations build up over time. This way, we have both learned what we do and don’t mind. I know that I should not ever move my roommate’s towel that he very properly folds on the vanity. My roommate knows that I will get absolutely no sleep if my box fan isn’t turned on and facing me. I have learned that the best way to handle situations with anyone you must live with is to simply be honest with one another and deal with problems as they arise. I, for one, sure am glad that I learned this lesson now and not later down the road.

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Wing Dates, Ooh Lah Lah

Wayne, Jeremiah 2By: Jeremiah Wayne

Contrary to what the title suggests, wing dates at The Gatton Academy are not actually romantically affiliated. When one of us says “wing date” we are referring to a picnic meant for a girls wing and a guys wing (or multiple wings). Recently, the Academy had one of its first wing dates. This one was for Ben’s wing and D’s wing. The original plans were to meet outside, but sadly the rain cancelled those preparations. Nevertheless, we found a way: we had our wing date inside of DUC.

At our wing date, we had sandwiches, chips, and cookies. But more importantly, we had the privelege of taking a Friday afternoon to relax and talk to peers. These wing dates provide an opportunity to spend time with people that you may not get to see that often. I was glad to see people that haven’t talked very much with one another finally break the ice. Wing dates are one of the many examples of Gatton’s cooperative community.

I’m very grateful to the RC’s (Residential Counselor) and CD’s (Community Developer) involved. They both always host weekly events to give students the opportunity to meet new people.

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