Seniors on Lakeside, Four Years Passed

Almost four years ago I published my very first article to Tatler: an interview piece detailing newly-arrived freshmen’s first impressions and opinions of Lakeside. It was ambitious,  a good idea, and ultimately awful due in large part to the … questionable journalistic integrity, in that I failed to record the interviews, didn’t give my interviewees space to breathe, and posted the article without getting their permission. Genuinely, I hope it’s been taken down.

Now that I have over three years of experience and maturity behind me, I thought that I’d catch up with the same five interviewees, and see what parting thoughts they have. 

Of the five interviewees from the first article (Henry R. ’23, Edward Y. ’23, Mulki A. ’23, Kayla G. ’23, Ky C. ’23), I managed to get in touch with three of them: Henry, Mulki, and Kayla.

One of the first questions I had was, fittingly, about these then-freshmen’s first impressions of Lakeside. Now with the benefit of retrospect, I decided to ask about their experiences, and got similar responses.

“There are some things I’m not the biggest fan of, but high school’s high school at the end of the day,” said Mulki, “and Lakeside’s given me the best high school experience I could have had.” The COVID pandemic obviously makes a comprehensive assessment of Lakeside difficult, as Henry and Mulki both brought up, but it seems that my interviewees’ experiences have been generally positive. 

Henry noted how his brother, attending a public school, had classes that “seemed to be designed to teach you how to think. I’ve had classes that changed the way I think [and], … learn how to think.”

Of course, part of this experience comes from “the systems in place at Lakeside,” as Kayla puts it. Henry noted how his brother, attending a public school, had classes that “seemed to be designed to teach you what to think. I’ve had classes that changed the way I think [and]… learn how to think.” It’s also a matter of priorities, like other schools’ focus on APs where Lakeside almost shies away from them. Mulki commented on teachers, and how readily they forge relationships and strike up conversation: “I feel really [grateful] that I can go up to my teacher … and they’ll always give me that time.” She added, “It feels like your teachers have the best intentions for you in mind.” And for all the controversies surrounding it, the Lakeside schedule is a notable part of a system designed to work for students. As Kayla puts it, “I love having frees!” 

Of course, four years of stewing in the same environment gives these seniors some ideas on how to improve their experiences. Henry noted how although he had a pretty good experience, he got lucky as others he knows “had very different experiences…where it felt like Lakeside was kind of against them.” He added that there are “a lot of old systems and I think those could be updated, learned upon.” Mulki, for her part, remarked on the lack of school spirit. “I wish that the culture at Lakeside made it easier to be a part of things.” 

Even so, all interviewees voiced their positive feelings about the community, from its diversity and variety of options to find a place to belong, to the collaborative nature of the classroom. All those interviewed said they would hold Lakeside fondly. Henry said “the bottom line is I’m grateful.” Kayla will miss the friends she made, especially in younger classes, and Mulki noted how the closer she gets to graduation, the more sentimental she feels.

Henry is going to the University of Colorado Boulder, taking with him “a lot of memories … the mindset about learning, the calculus I learned, [and] how to write an essay. I think I’ve also gotten cooler, which might be because I was kind of uncool beforehand, and I’ve naturally progressed.” 

Kayla will attend the University of Washington, taking with her what she’s learned about her own interests, like social justice and writing. “I’d love to … pursue my interests in that.”

Mulki is off to Columbia University, bringing Lakeside’s college preparation. “Lakeside taught me how to reach out to teachers,” after all.

I suppose I should give my two cents, as a fellow graduating senior.

At the end of the day, though, Lakeside gave me exactly what I needed…

To be honest, my relationship with Lakeside is complicated. My opinion still remains that I’ve been allowed to come into my own a lot more than I did at my middle school (shout-outs to Odle Middle School, my beloathed). The resources that I’ve been given just by attending Lakeside cannot be understated, not least of them the community that — while flawed — has been integral to my growth. At the same time, I recognize that Lakeside is incredibly insular, both as a community and within its group of students that did or did not go to the middle school. It still has an unresolved culture of toxic workmanship and a college- and “excellence”-centric system which more or less worked in my favor, but which made some of my (former) friends’ lives hell.

At the root of it, I can’t give a fair assessment because it’s hard to extricate which of my adversities came from Lakeside and which were self-imposed. At what point do I blame my breakdown in 10th grade to Lakeside’s unfair workload, or my own coinciding identity crises? How much is it that I didn’t make many close friends due to the community, or due to my upbringing?

At the end of the day, though, Lakeside gave me exactly what I needed: a competitive but welcoming environment, where I could actually grow as a person and learn to at least like myself. And for that I can’t be grateful enough, in spite of my subjective negative experiences and the objective faults. These are four years that I’m grateful to take into the rest of my life, and to the grave if possible — or, at least, to the next four years of college.