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

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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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PSAT Test

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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Roommates

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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Halloween at The Academy

Wetzel, Anne BBy:  Annie B. Wetzel

This past week, the halls in Bates Runner Hall became spookier than the thought of our rapidly approaching finals. Ghosts, bloody footprints, tombstones, and witches filled expanse of our walls. Each wing came together to decorate the portion of the building they call home for Halloween. The prize for best-decorated wing was a large amount of candy.

The result was quite impressive. Not only did wing communities become closer in the spirit of Halloween, but also produced a great result. The Academy’s creativity was evident.

In the end, one wing was named the winner. The girls residing on the left side of the second floor took the prize. Their hanging ghouls, outlined bodies, and monsters were deemed the spookiest of all.

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Schneider Hall vs. Bates Runner Hall

Achenjang, Niven 1By:  Niven Achenjang

Thanks to some extra funding, The Gatton Academy will be expanding from roughly 120 students to around 200 students. With this expansion comes the need for more space, so Florence Schneider Hall – Gatton’s residence hall – is currently being renovated and built upon. In the meantime, Gatton has moved to Bates this year.

As expected, living in Bates is different from living in Schneider. One of the more stark differences, is the lack of Schneider’s floor culture in Bates. In Schneider, each of the four floors had its own personality and students often built their strongest friendships with people on their floor. We all still interacted with people outside of our floor, but many of us felt closest to those on the same floor. Moving to Bates, the majority of boys live on the third floor, the majority of girls live on the second floor, and relatively few boys and girls live on the first floor – separated by a lobby. This has weakened the strong sense of floor culture that was apparent at Schneider, but at the same time, it has allowed people to spend more time with those who lived on different floors last year.

Another thing missing from Bates is common rooms. In Schneider, each floor had a large common room in the middle where people would often hang out, play some games, do homework, etc. At Bates, there are no common rooms on floor. In fact, all of the common space is on first floor: the lobby, the classroom, and the ping pong room. This can be seen as a positive or a negative. Less common space means, well, less common space – less space to hang out. It also means, however, that people are easier to find if you are looking for them and that different groups of people are more likely to be in the vicinity of each other and spend time with each other.

Compared to those two, most of the changes that moving to Bates presented are minor. We no longer have an elevator, but flights of stairs are short so it is not a big deal; we are farther from classes, but closer to food so the merit of that depends on priorities; etc. In the end, how you view the switch to Bates for the year is up to your point of view.

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Food at The Gatton Academy

Achenjang, Niven 1By:  Niven Achenjang

One of the most dreaded aspects of high school is the school food. At the Academy, this same sentiment does not hold. Being able to live on a university campus for your last two years of high school is great, but not just for the challenging courses. Arguably better than the academic advantages of Gatton are its nourishment advantages.

On WKU’s campus are several places to eat with a variety of foods. Want some pizza? Check out Papa John’s or Da Vinci’s. Looking for a good burger? Try Steak & Shake or Burger Studio. In the mood for chicken? We have Chick Fil-A and Popeye’s. If you are craving something a little bit healthier, then consider Subway, Burrito Bowl, or Fresh Foods. All eating options on campus – not just the ones listed here – offer better food than your typical high school.

To make things better, most of it is essentially free. Every week, as a Gatton student, we get 19 meal swipes. Nearly all places on campus have value meals. These are pre-chosen meals offered by the restaurant that cost a single meal swipe. Most of them are a food item (6-in sub, slice of pizza, chicken sandwich), a side (cookies, breadsticks, fries), and a fountain drink. Some restaurants go a step further and let you pay for items off of the value meal using multiple meal swipes. The value of a meal swipe is $3.45 so I could, for example, get a brownies from Papa John’s – which cost $6.00 – for two meal swipes. In addition to the meal swipes, we also receive 75 meal plan dollars which can be spent on any food item on campus, and roll over between Fall and Spring semesters.

Finally, not all academy dining is done on campus. Gatton students often eat in town, getting to their restaurants via either walking or a suburban driven by an RC. Bowling Green has many more restaurants than most cities of its size, so eating off campus is a great way to try something new or different. The only drawback is you have to use real money. No matter where you are eating though, you will agree that food here trumps food at most high schools.

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Fall Break

Ellis, Jenna 1By:  Jenna Ellis

Fall break was on October 1st and 2nd, marking the first extended break from classes and living at Bates.  Juniors got the time to take a break from their new work schedules and spend extra time with family and friends at home for the first time since move in day. Fall break is a convenient time for seniors to put in some extra work on college applications (with creeping deadlines), catch up on work, and relax at least a little.

Others use fall break as an opportunity to travel, both for recreation and/or some school related endeavors. Many seniors go on college visit trips across states, with others travel in close proximity to home for secondary visits, interviews, and extra information sessions. Some may take small vacations to just get away for a while. Regardless of how it’s spent, most Academy students can agree that fall break is a nice mix of productivity and relaxation.

After returning from a four day weekend, the semester definitely starts to pick up for everyone. Second tests start rolling around, some college apps are due, and class work really starts to intensify. All the more reason to appreciate the break while it’s there.

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