17 March 2008

Follow Your Bliss

So, I guess I had better explain some of the stuff with MIT... :)

Agriculture has been a major part of my life for the past four years (and when I say major, I mean MAJOR. Every-second-ever major.) and I'm kind of scared that if I go to a school without an ag department, I might not still be involved. At MIT, I want to go into Course 1E (Environmental Engineering) and really tie in agriculture and forestry. Everyone today thought I was crazy for not being sure about MIT, because honestly?! How can you turn down MIT?!?! Yeah, I know. Believe me, I feel the agony of it. I plan on going to CPW, and if I'm convinced, then I'm convinced. I'm keeping an open mind...

I had definitely prepared myself for the page that said I wasn't admitted. Totally and completely prepared. I didn't even check it at 9:00 when it was put online. I stayed in bed having a nightmare until 9:45. It was a bad nightmare. I had to go through this insane maze/obstacle course to get my admission decision. There were numerous essays and contests and other crazy challenges that I had to complete, and someone lecturing me on my financial aid materials. It was not all that different from the admissions process - just scary and in a dark building. And just before I was going to get my final decision, I woke up. I realized decisions were online. The line on the first page, telling you to make sure you have some privacy, is a very important thing. I didn't really have privacy, and my dad and brother were kind of confused when I started crying and I wasn't jumping around the room. I couldn't really talk - I just gave them a thumbs-up. It's so weird to me! It's not like I have amazing test scores, and I'm not even in the top 10% of my class (Well, I'm close. 6 out of 59-close). I guess I'm a little different from a lot of people that apply, but that can't be all of it. I have no idea. Interesting trivia though - I'm the first person in the history of my high school to apply to MIT, let alone get accepted.

On a different note, tomorrow night I get to battle crazy old-timer loggers at the school's bond committee meeting. My letter to the editor of the local paper probably isn't going to go over well with them... I'll post it here... Sorry it's a little long. I'm kind of passionate about the issue. More will probably be posted about it in the coming months for that exact reason... :)

I'm writing in response to the article published covering the March 10th Willamina school board meeting (“Recall threat surfaces” by Marguerite Alexander). A similar article appeared in the News-Register the day before the article was published in The Sun (“Recall threatened over old Willamina High School flap” by Paul Daquilante). After reading these articles, I feel the need to raise some red flags over the issue of the dilapidated and ruined Willamina High School building that currently sits decaying on Washington Street, as well as the events that took place at the school board meeting.
I have attended Willamina public schools since my first day of Kindergarten. Over the course of my schooling, I have experienced first-hand the short-comings of our district's facilities. Our school district should be commended for making progress with what meager resources they have. Although, as with any situation where resources are limited, only so many advancements can be made.
The Oaken Hills campus is simply not serving the needs of the students of our district. Wood shop classes are bussed to the older facilities – facilities that are substandard. Athletic facilities are lacking. The Drama Club's only option for producing quality school plays is the old High School cafeteria/auditorium. Students must endure hours of work in a room with no heat during the depths of winter, not to mention their exposure to a number of dangerous conditions, from respiratory irritants to ailing facilities and equipment. Welding students are forced to operate in a small space with safety mechanisms that just scrape by the acceptable standards. Agriculture classes are housed in a room that was a storage closet when the building was home to the middle school. With the latest trend of an increasing student population, a larger number of classrooms are needed to preserve what makes small schools effective – small class sizes. Continuing to ignore these problems will not benefit local students in any manner. I suppose squeezing more kids into a classroom forces everyone to get to know each other a little better, but individual attention from teachers is severely limited (and certainly more important). Our school system has produced numerous and successful athletic teams, quality school drama productions, as well as an FFA Food Science and Technology team that was second in the nation, and an FFA Agricultural Sales team that was sixth in the nation. If this is what we can accomplish without adequate resources, imagine what we can do with adequate resources. These students are the future of our country and, more importantly, the future of our community. They are the future taxpayers that will shoulder the burden of the upkeep costs of a building that has no purpose. We need to have some foresight right now. If we were to repair the old High School building, we would experience high operating costs in the present, let alone the future as it ages. The building is old now – it isn't getting any younger. With the emerging technologies that are affecting the construction of buildings, especially new energy innovations, the old campus is already stuck in the proverbial stone age. We have no way of knowing what will materialize in the coming years, we just know improvements will be made. When today's students are the taxpayers of tomorrow, that old building will most likely be completely obsolete and operating costs will be through the roof (no pun intended). I can't think of any good reason why that burden should be passed off to the next generation. Some argue that the current school board and administrators have failed to make any sort of progress on the old building. True enough. But that's not to say they haven't been trying. Attempts to pass a bond that would solve the messy problem known as the old High School have been stonewalled three times. And now the sale of the property is being contested. If the old school is that important to you, why don't you buy it and start your own school that you can manage as you please? If you are that attached, raise the funds and own it. Raise the funds and see how monumental the problems of that building truly are, as well as how many people truly support your cause in our community.
As for the events at the school board meeting, I was rather appalled to hear the senseless accusations against the school board. A recall is entirely unwarranted. Our school board members have been working diligently to improve our school district – thank goodness someone has the initiative to do so. These hard-working volunteers should not be penalized for that. That would be similar to asking people to stop donating to the food bank or giving blood – and we all know that would be a ridiculous proposition. I would like to praise Craig Johnson for his response to the recall threats – well said, Mr. Johnson! The claims that the school board has not been transparent and communicative with the community do not make sense. As far as I can recall, the school board holds monthly meetings that are open to the public, as well as work sessions regarding the fates of school properties that are open to the public. We have a bond committee. We have a budget committee. The Keep Improving District Schools (K.I.D.S.) group has worked to increase awareness of the intricacies and importance of bonds during election season. In addition, our school board members are not hermits living in caves up in the mountains. They can be contacted regarding the business of our school district. Stating that our school board has not been communicating with the district simply tells me that people are lazy and don't care enough to attend the numerous forums where they may voice their opinions concerning the district facilities. Threatening to recall school board members because they want to find a good solution for the old High School building or switch to contract busing is nonsensical. If progress were a punishable offense, we would still be living in caves, cold and hungry because fire would be a foreign concept and off-limits. It is foolish to stifle the potential of our school district, and in turn, the students that are served by it. Ultimately, the school district exists to serve the children of our area. Do not hinder their attempts because of some decrepit building that will not be able to serve the students of today or tomorrow. If that building is all we have to lose, we are doing pretty well. A lot more could be at stake, and a tiny, worthless building is a small price to pay for a high quality school that will raise property values and draw more people to our area, resulting in an energized local economy. It is a small price to pay to provide children with a quality education that will help them to be successful in an increasingly competitive world where a college degree is a must and outsourcing of jobs has become the norm.
The old High School building serves no purpose in today's Willamina. Pointing fingers and blaming people doesn't solve the problem at hand. Recalling our school board members would only drag out the process of figuring out just what to do with that run-down piece of property. Some hopeless building is not what matters – the students are. Members of our community have lost sight of that, and as a student I can honestly say that it is felt by every student at our school, whether they realize it or not. They feel it when they walk into a class that is too large, when they practice for a sport, when they weld, when they enter the wood shop, when they turn on the small space heaters during Drama Club practice (after donning parkas, of course), when the school bonds fail and when people only seem to care about a pile of bricks.


Kelsey Kennedy
Willamina High School Senior


Stephen said...

i didn't finish this whole thing yet but i didn't check my decision until about 2 and a half hours after it came out (it's a complex system i use based on my false notions of accumulation)
im sad to hear that you might not be coming to MIT THIS year im sure you would be able to do whatever you want to do with ag
i looked at one of snively's old blogs and thought it was pretty awesome that we were rockin the mit blogs with talk about Oregon.
and some day ill figure out where willamina is
-Stephen Rigsby

KelseyK said...

Hahaha, do you know where Spirit Mountain Casino is? We're about 15 minutes away from there. 45 minutes west of Salem, 45 minutes east of Lincoln City, an hour and a half south of Portland. A little detailed, I know. But pretty accurate nonetheless.

I will find out for sure whether I'm headed to any college next year this upcoming weekend. As for which school... It's looking more and more like MIT everyday. As soon as I get it all figured out though, pretty much the whole world will know about it... :)