This Wasn’t Like High School Musical

As a Mustang Mentor, I preface the beginning of each year for my freshman with this inspiring quote: “Contrary to popular belief, high school is not the best time of your life.”

The kiddos sit there, shocked for a moment. How could their educational sherpa and mentor contradict pop culture like this? Didn’t High School Musical prove that secondary education was a singing, dancing whirlwind of basketball games, romance, and country club talent shows?

I tell them this because I don’t want outside perceptions of life to influence how they navigate one of the most difficult and rewarding times of their lives. I remember being their age and waiting for my “Gabriella” experience to begin (complete with the early acceptance to Stanford).

Four years later, I sit here, and Stanford doesn’t know who I am and Zac Efron (unfortunately) is not my boyfriend attending college exactly 32.7 miles away from me. But it doesn’t matter- I’m graduating the happiest I could possibly be.

In March and April, I missed about 15 school days in order to visit colleges. While I loved getting to travel around the country to see what different programs had to offer, I found myself missing the little joys of high school. I couldn’t imagine how Gabriella left East High early to begin her studies at Stanford (and before the senior musical? What was she thinking?).

Don’t get me wrong, on May 26, I’m throwing my graduation cap high in the sky and saying sayonara to MN. But it isn’t until you’re staring directly at a new life 1,435 miles away from the people that you love that you feel the weight of how truly blessed you have been by your high school experience.

During my time at MN, I have played fierce heroines, planned prom, made a difference in my community, and written shocking journalistic articles to rival those of Woodward and Bernstein (just kidding, Mrs. Crotzer).  I have celebrated with my family, danced with my friends, and belly-laughed with my teachers. Upon graduation, I will leave knowing that I spent high school living fully and well.

As I pack my bags and head off in the direction of my dreams, I will treasure the family and sense of community I have received in high school. High School Musical is a wildly inaccurate movie series (Julliard does not give out acceptances based on how well you do in your student created senior show. Please), but its overarching message is what’s important: no matter what we all go through, no matter the disagreements or the disappointments, we’re all in this together.

At the beginning of the movie series, the student body at East High is divided. People don’t associate with people that aren’t like them. While the movies present an exaggeration, there is an unfortunate truth to this message.

To my fellow seniors, and all the members of this school, I urge you to choose unity instead of division. Having a closed mind, and shunning people that are not like you won’t lead to anything besides gridlock and hate. We are a new generation; we can be different.

Be different. Be kinder. Be better. Seniors-we did it. Here’s to a world that’s brighter. Here’s to a world that’s ours.

It’s now time for me to take a final bow, close the curtain, and turn off the lights. I’m leaving to become a Broadway Baby, but a Mustang I will always be.