I was nervously anticipating my first day at Neelin High School this fall, yet at the same time overflowing with the excitement of a new beginning.
I had come from a small, private school on the south side of Brandon and had driven past Neelin nearly every day on the bus. I saw the school as I did any other high school — a big, scary place where you were expected to learn chemical formulas, mathematical theorems and other complex ideas I had yet to understand.
My parents told me how important it was to make good friends at school. Although I am a disciplined student and know from experience that friendships can sometimes take over the priority of school, I knew they were right.
I just wanted to belong at Neelin and hopefully I wouldn’t have to change my personality to fit in. I was really looking forward to meeting my teachers and after the summer break I was ready to take on the new challenge of high school.
Walking through the front doors, I immediately noticed the student variety: jocks and preps, walkers and wheelers, French and English. Neelin welcomed us all.
No one seemed to label me as quirky, because here at Neelin, individuality is celebrated.
The school was bigger then I expected, and the rectangular format of the hallway encouraged students to walk circuits and talk with peers in between classes.
The cafeteria had a piano for everyone to enjoy, and often the hallway was filled with music.
Art is one of the reasons I came to Neelin, but I didn’t expect the room itself to be a piece of art. Every wall was painted by the students, leaving their mark. Smiling to myself, I knew this was where I belonged.
One could easily tell who the Grade 9 students were — the ones fumbling with their locker combinations and mumbling "Excuse me" as they worked their way through the hallways (I was no exception).
Waving timidly to everyone around me, I searched for the one person who would smile in return. One thing no one tells you in high school is how to make friends. I knew I should choose my friends wisely, but in high school you need to decide for yourself what "wisely" actually means.
As it turns out, I have already made some loyal and caring friends. And the senior students aren’t nearly as condescending as I had prepared myself for. It’s not exactly a "big happy family" but we all seem to get along in one way or another.
Any good school depends on quality teachers and Neelin is no exception.
My teachers have challenged, encouraged and accommodated me. Although I haven’t been here very long, I can really admire my teachers for being patient yet firm in various situations.
Yes, high school is challenging, but the teachers are making the journey worthwhile. The main quality about the teachers at Neelin is that they seem to enjoy their work. Making a yarn web to learn each other’s names, using chocolate coins to learn about gambling addiction, and painting our classmates into zombies in art class, all helped to make the learning more memorable.
And it’s hard not to get excited about chemistry when your teacher demonstrates Newton’s laws by throwing pens across the room.
All in all, Neelin has been far more than I expected from the smallest Brandon high school.
Although I probably could have adjusted to any of our city’s secondary schools, I know I’ve found the place where I belong.
I’ve only just begun this high school journey, but so far the view from Neelin has been thrilling!
» Elena Klippenstein is a Grade 9 student at Neelin High School.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 26, 2012