GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts, U.S.A. — I felt trapped in high school. The cliques, unsatisfying choice of classes, lack of inspiration and creativity, and absence of freedom made me dread getting out of bed in the morning. I used to think I didn’t have a choice but to be there.
I was wrong.
By the time I was a sophomore I was in a desperate search for alternatives to high school. I was coming up with nothing. The only other path was to drop out, and that wasn’ t what I wanted. Then one day, out of nowhere, my chance arose.
My mother had heard someone talking about an early college. She retained only the name: Simon’s Rock.
Ten minutes after she told me I was on the Internet looking for it. As I read the information on the website my heart beat faster and faster. This was my answer.
Simon’s Rock College of Bard was founded upon the belief that 16- and 17-year-olds are capable of college work. They accept students primarily out of 10th and 11th grade and enroll them in a college program. It is located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
At the end of two years, an AA degree is earned. At this point, most students transfer to regular colleges to continue their studies.
Basically, you get to skip the rest of high school and head to college.
Yes, that’s right. I’m 16 and I’ m in college.
Explaining that is probably one of the most difficult things about being here.
Classes here are small and discussion oriented. Everyone is required to take certain core subjects, but are free to choose what classes they take to accomplish that. Freshmen meet with an advisor on a regular basis.
Dorm life is interesting, to say the least. To jump from having mom and dad downstairs to having total freedom and being surrounded by your friends 24 hours a day is quite a leap.
I live in an all girls dorm, primarily of freshman. I have a roommate, as do all freshmen. Pretty much every college stereotype is applicable here, from loud music to socks on doorknobs.
The workload is not too bad, but its certainly more than high school. I have a few hours of class each day, and about the same of homework, projects, and papers.
I have absolutely no regrets about leaving high school and coming to Simon’ s Rock. I was never a cheerleader, nor was I going to be. I wasn’t going to go to prom. I wasn’ t looking forward to being a senior, or even a junior. I didn’ t like the entire atmosphere of it.
However, Simon’s Rock is not a school for everyone.
It is definitely not for those who are just looking to get out of high school. You need a motivation to get somewhere, not just to get away from somewhere.
This student body is the most interesting and creative bunch I have ever seen. Because this is an alternative school, it draws a specific type of kids. There is a lot of hair dye, piercing, vegetarianism, veganism, political activism and opinions.
Of course, everything has a downside.
With all of this comes a certain arrogance. Kids tend to let it go to their heads that they’ re doing something special.
Also, the school is very small. There are approximately 350 students, mostly freshman and sophomores. There are very few secrets on campus.
Because of the so-called ” rumor mill” everyone knows everything about you.
Also, the fact that Great Barrington is so small and so boring leaves kids with time on their hands. Most fill it with drinking and drugs.
Not having to deal with parents searching for bloodshot eyes and odorous breath also adds to that.
Another negative aspect of this school is that it creates a tight-knit community that is unlike the real world. Thus, we tend to loose sight of reality. We are rarely even aware of current events.
But I think dealing with those things is worth it for the opportunity I’ve been given.
Being here now is the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
Shaina Zura is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
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