Climbing Mt. Everest, crossing the Pacific, trekking across the moon’s surface, attending Sequoyah School; these are some of mankind’s greatest physical and mental feats, achieved only by the most capable and determined individuals. While I can’t say I’ve sailed the seas or ventured to the desolate depths of space (yet), I have successfully endured all four years at Sequoyah’s high school, arguably the most perilous challenge of them all. From SIP, to Talking Leaves, to the entirety of the Sequoyah Math curriculum, I’ve seen and survived it all; albeit, bruised and periodically traversing the line of psychotic breakdown. Regardless, I’ve made it through. As experienced Sequoyah veterans, the 2022 senior class and I would like to graciously relay the knowledge that helped us navigate high school and pass on tips and tricks to help those who come after us succeed in this treacherous environment.
One of the most intimidating components of the Sequoyah curriculum is the Talking Leaves program. Scheduled in the midst of final projects, the dreaded panel presentations are often one of the leading causes of stress within the community. While writing a paper, perfectly curating your thesis, and presenting in front of Sequoyah’s most ruthless faculty (Calina and Marc) is incredibly daunting, over time, we Seniors have perfected the Talking Leaves craft, and we’re here to bestow our accumulated wisdom.
Firstly, Talking Leaves are an inevitable facet of our Gryphon culture; dreading this process will not help you complete the assignment. However, developing excitement for your presentation may enable you to succeed. Six-time Talking Leaves exemplar, Jackson Grant stated, “The way that I found the most success with Talking Leaves was by choosing a topic or concept that I was un-negotiably passionate about… I’ve spoken about how to drift a car, I’ve talked about the economics of Tesla, and so by picking a passion explicitly and then figuring out how that relates to my coursework, I found that I have had a much more enjoyable time researching, writing, and communicating.”
Though junior year has attained the reputation as the most stressful and grueling period of one’s high school career, most seniors know it doesn’t hold a candle to the first semester of senior year, specifically, the college application process. While planning your next four years and potentially the trajectory of your life is certainly no straightforward feat, there are steps you can take now to best prepare for this process, and to guarantee the happiest and least stressful senior year possible.
Oftentimes, the most valuable solution to a problem is the most straightforward. According to Steering Committee Co-chair Ada Argueta, what she found most useful throughout the college process was utilizing the resources provided by our school, and visiting Rosanna whenever possible. Argueta noted, “Don’t just constrain yourself to meeting with Rosanna on days where she specifically has meetings with us all. If you see her free, in the office, during breaks, or passing periods, go up to her and ask any question you have. She’s there to support you.” Though tucked away in the deep depths of the office, Rosanna is always willing and able to provide the best advice and guidance for your life post-graduation.
Additionally, many seniors attribute their success to getting a head start on this process. Argueta claims that starting her personal statement in May of her junior year alleviated much of the stress she experienced throughout her senior year. Meanwhile, Jackson Grant stated: “My number one piece of advice is to set up your timeline in such a way that everything is completed by November 1st of your senior fall. Otherwise, with taking college work into winter break, things become more stressful.” While freshmen and sophomores don’t need to concern themselves with the trials and tribulations of college applications, juniors, to put it simply, don’t procrastinate.
With Talking Leaves, SIP, and the college process occupying too much of our time, it is incredibly easy to put off our regular classwork for these additional responsibilities. Navigating high school (especially Sequoyah) is a challenge in and of itself, and oftentimes, we are forced to prioritize one assignment over another. While there is much on each student’s plate (no thanks to Lindsey’s nightly readings), there are ways to help you best tackle each of your responsibilities and successfully navigate your four years at Sequoyah School.
The most repeated piece of advice from the seniors was reaching out for help at any and every opportunity. When asked what was most advantageous to him in navigating high school, Ben Parkhurst declared, “Stay on top of your classwork and go to office hours! Oh my god, make a habit of going to office hours, it is such a rewarding practice.”
I understand preaching the importance of office hours isn’t the freshest or most exciting piece of advice, so, on a more sentimental note, Jackson Grant hopes for the lowerclassmen to appreciate the time they have left at Sequoyah, and for the older grades to relish all we have gained over this time. He expresses: “Four years is quick. As a freshman, it seems like a long time that you are gonna be here, but you really only have four years on your first day of high school. I’d say definitely appreciate the finite quantity of time that you have because, after your freshman year, it all gets faster.” While you may sometimes dread your time spent at school, these moments only become more meaningful the closer you get to graduation.
It may seem the most straightforward way of getting through high school is by hunkering down and studying. While this certainly couldn’t hurt, these four years of your life shouldn’t be strictly dedicated to scholastic pursuits. In fact, balancing your life outside the classroom with your schoolwork is immeasurably important and essential to your wellbeing.
In order to maintain your sanity, Sequoyah’s high school seniors offer a few simple pieces of advice. Firstly, find something you love, and stick to it. For me, this activity was binging movies. For others, it may be hiking, knitting, or even napping–just anything to keep you occupied. As Adam Lurvey puts it, “Finding people you like spending time with is really important. Also, finding what you like. Don’t just do as many things as you can for the sake of doing things. There’s a lot of people who say ‘the most successful people are the ones who say no the most often,’ and that is to say that there’s going to be a lot of things you can do with your time. So find the things you enjoy the most, that you find most valuable, and you won’t feel so busy and stressed out.” Pursue a simple pleasure on your own time that will alleviate your difficulties at school. Senior William Hodges puts it simply, stating, “I like playing piano.”
Finally, Argueta emphasizes the importance of self-care in regard to your in-school responsibilities. She claims: “I’m someone who has always turned in assignments on time. In my four years, I have never asked for an extension, I’ve never turned in anything late. But there are also times when I have been really stressed and had to pull all-nighters to turn in assignments. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes.” While I can’t recommend procrastination or avoiding assignments, take care of yourself through proper time management and seek assistance from your teachers and peers. We all struggle, and we all need a little extra help sometimes, so don’t shy away from asking for it.