Hello, everyone.  My name is Mark Tullen.  I am graduating at the top of my class and my time at Western High School is drawing to an end.  This is my high school experience.

We all come in at one point in our lives to step onto campus, dreading the four long years ahead of us.  Leaving some of our friends behind as we split ways coming into high school, this transition could be very tragic to many, but there exist some in the population of high school students that do not care.  The first day arrives, the freshman obtain their schedules from the main quad, and we venture throughout the day entering classrooms that seemed foreign to us.  My first year in high school was a solo experience as I isolated myself from my friends to create bonds with new ones that would seem everlasting.  There were new faces, all looking for an opportunity to fit in.  I came as a very anxious Pioneer, being nervous as Socratic Seminars approached, tests became more frequent, and assimilating to this new campus culture became difficult challenges that attested to the personalities of the new.  I had all honors classes and had all A’s, but I knew I had to be more involved in school to really make a name for myself.  Yeah, I was antisocial, but that was my choice to be even if it seemed unnatural, but I faced reality once I knew that I couldn’t remain that way forever.  I joined wrestling at the end of freshman year and signed up to be the publicist of a new club called Do Your Part.  I made new friends and surprisingly, I did not lose any old ones, but because of the choices I made, I did begin to become distant with them.  Freshman year was nearing an end and I feel relieved that I have a summer’s worth to relax from what seemed to be the hardest year of my life.  It was only the beginning.

Sophomore year came.  People came and went.  Life was different.  I came back to Western with all honors classes and it was manageable.  I had my first B on my transcript because of English 2 HP and I was a terrible publicist–many of the new cabinet members of the club can say that, but being the first generation for the new club on campus meant new learning experiences.  Job responsibilities added onto the workload of school and it seemed tougher.  In addition, balancing wrestling made my life very difficult.  I was considered a very flexible wrestler, according to my coaches, because I wrestled in frosh-soph, junior varsity, and varsity and I wrestled in weight classes ranging from 132 pounds to 160 pounds.  My body felt dead most of the time, practicing in intense heat until 6PM when season began only to come home to remember that I was packed with homework.  Many people began asking the following question:  “How could you get good grades and manage all of my extracurricular activities at the same time?”  But honestly, this was only sophomore year, and you could ask every student athlete that.  The answer was the same…

You have to have the drive for success.

Junior year arrived.  People got separated.  AP classes were introduced to the general population and I took them.  I took AP English Language and AP Chemistry.  Sadly, I could not take AP Calculus because the only option I had was Pre-Calculus HP and AP U.S. History did not fit in my schedule.  I managed to finish the year with all A’s, but first semester slowed me down as I had the second B on my transcript.  It was from AP English Language.  My complacency led me to become lazy with the work I do, resulting in a lower quality of work.  This year was where everything changed.  My mother made me leave wrestling because I had a B last year because of English 2 HP and this gave me a lot of time to focus on my studies.  To make up for not being in a sport, I began to take more extracurriculars.  I joined the high school dance team, became the California Scholarship Federation secretary, became the Boys’ State delegate for Western High School and more.  This was also the year I got a girlfriend.  We aren’t together anymore, but I do not regret anything because I learned a lot and have matured to become the best I can be.  Yeah, there were ups and downs, but that’s life.  Setbacks are life’s obstacles, but that drive that was aforementioned can make people successful.  You just have to want it.

Now, it’s senior year.  Senioritis infected everybody.  Many were in denial as the psychological parasite got deeper and deeper into the school population, causing kids to become lazy and complacent as they wanted to finish their last year fast.  But, now, it’s already coming to an end and many regret wishing.  I tried to go for more extracurriculars to try and fight back against senioritis.  I joined a dance team outside of school, became the California Scholarship Federation president, became the National Honors Society president, made new friends, and left old ones.  This year is the busiest out of all my other years because of the fact that I just had too much to do.  But too much to do isn’t a bad thing.  It’s only a bad thing when one does not know how to manage his or her time efficiently.  Yeah, I’ve heard the stories.  Kids sleeping in the ante meridiem times.  Everyone believes high school is hard.  It’s only hard if you make it hard.  There are kids that I firmly believe are smarter than me.  Most definitely.  The words that come out of their mouths are gentle music to my hears as the eloquence of vocabulary travels in the airs.  Homework is both beneficial and detrimental.  Kids become lazy, but are still smart.  Their laziness is what is reflected in their grades, however, not their intelligence.  Many seniors are exposed to dangerous substances such as alcohol and drugs and find them a outlets of safety and happiness, only to further depress themselves.  Not all took this path, however.  I am not propagating this generalization to the whole senior class.  Many students have decided to be top scholars and have been accepted into amazing colleges.  Some in the UC system, some in the Cal State system.  We all must take our separate paths sooner or later, but who could’ve known it would come so fast?  We all hear, coming in as freshman, the following phrase:  These four year will fly by fast.  Well, they do and I’m here to verify.

I don’t want this article to be one fueled by self-interest and narcissism.  I am only retelling my high school experience.  Everyone goes through high school differently.  It opens up many opportunities for change and offers different perspectives in hopes that the individual coming in will come out as an open-minded Pioneer by the end of these four years.

Advice for upcoming freshmen:  make these years count.  Many invest their time so focused on academics or so focused on sports or any other extracurricular activity that they forget to balance their lives.  Freshman year is a year of exploration, finding your interests, making friends, and going through your classes.  Academics, athletics, social life, and one’s emotional life must be balanced to be able to enjoy high school.  It’s easier said than done, but it’s something to strive for.  Having goals in mind is always a good way to guide one’s self to success or to happiness or even both!

Advice for upcoming sophomores:  take this year seriously!  It may be just like freshman year, but the classes are designed to be more difficult as our brains mature.  Not much to say about this year, to be honest.  Just succeed in your classes and make sure to balance all other aspects in your life.

Advice for upcoming juniors:  try taking more difficult classes and immerse yourself in campus culture!  Take AP classes, there’s always pros.  Yeah, it’s time consuming, but guess what?  Credits for college and better work ethics are amazing skills to gain.  You can’t buy time, so don’t waste it on classes that aren’t too difficult.  Get involved in extracurricular activities!  Well, you should’ve started earlier, but it’s never too late.  It’s either now or never.

Advice for upcoming seniors:  do not let Senioritis get to you!  You are your own person, you shape your own path, so why let the last year be a waste?  Push through your classes with flying colors and excel in your field.  Apply for college.  I forced my friend to apply after a week of arguing because she gave up on herself, and she ended up making it!  You never know your true potential until you realize it yourself.

High school will only be four years of your life, but it is the time of change and immense growth.  Use these years wisely.  Manage your time efficiently, surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and find the motivation or inspiration for success so that the future will be easier for you.  Everyone in this campus is beautiful, regardless of actions and personalities, because we are all Pioneers.  The alma mater will never leave and it has been instilled in each and every one of us.  Western High School is the home to the Pioneers.  Past and present.  This is the only beginning to the journey ahead.

Every adventure requires a first step.

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