My Way / Sofia Ackerman

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My Way / Sofia Ackerman

photo by Kaycee Orwig

photo by Kaycee Orwig

photo by Kaycee Orwig

Sofia Ackerman, Copy Editor

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Last year I moved from Germantown, Maryland. I never thought I’d get to write those words, but goodness gracious am I glad that I can.

Our family is originally from the Pittsburgh area, and most of my extended family members live in Wexford. My father had moved to Washington D.C. many years ago to find a government job, and while the plan had always been to move back to Pittsburgh when I finished fifth grade it just… Never happened.

We always loved to visit Wexford; it always felt like more of a home to us than Maryland did, and we loathed the day when we had to pack the car up and make the drive back down to, in our childish opinions, boring old Germantown.

It was during spring break of my tenth grade year when we realized that we would only have to make that drive a few more times.

We were in Wexford visiting family when my cousin, Michael John Barton, invited us to attend one of his NA volleyball games. My two brothers and I were not only excited to get to see our cousin play the sport that he and his sister loved, but also to see the high school that our father had graduated from many a year ago. And when we drove past the tennis courts and beheld the behemoth of a school, our excitement only grew. Scholar-athlete awards lined the walls leading to the gym, and I remember nudging my Dad and asking, “Hey, do you think your name is on one of those?”

As we took our seats on the bleachers, I couldn’t help but gawk at all of the people in the crowd. At my old school it was quite difficult to get students and their families to come to events, so to see all of these cheering, engaged fans was quite surprising. At one point, my younger cousin looked up at me during a break in the game and asked, “Do you want to see the pool?”

I took her seriously for a second before concluding that she must have been pulling my leg.

“What?” I replied with an eyebrow raised. “Come on now, there’s no pool.”

Her smile brightened as she grabbed my hand. “There is! I’ll show you, come on.”

She led me down the bleachers and back out into the hall. And sure enough, several feet away were double doors that led to an unground pool. A pool in a school! I was stunned. What kind of school district had the money to put a swimming pool in the basement of the senior high school?

One hour and one victory against Seneca Valley later (yes, my high school in Maryland shares its name with the Pennsylvania school that the NASH volleyball team beat that fateful day, to use a trite expression), we were pestering my father nonstop.  “Wouldn’t it be so great if we went to the high school you went to? We’ll get straight A’s if we move, we promise!” Even our aunt and uncle were needling him, and after a solid twenty minutes of annoying him to no end, he responded, “I’ll ask my boss.”

Secluding yourself is the worst action you can take in a school like NASH.”

Fast forward several months. I was standing in front of North Allegheny Senior High on September 1st — my first day as an NA Tiger. The mixture of disbelief and apprehension that was swirling around in my head was almost enough to knock me over. Was this really happening? After all these years, were we actually Wexford residents?

Suddenly, I was second-guessing our decision. Did we really make the smart move? NASH had such a different atmosphere from my old school, and I wasn’t sure how I would adjust.

I am, by nature, a very shy, awkward, and anxious person around new people, and here I was walking into a building filled with nothing but new faces. My confidence dropped sharply and it took a lot of effort just to walk into the building that day.

Luckily, my first period class was orchestra, which meant that I could walk straight into class without having to sit in the cafeteria while I waited for the bell to ring. What made it even easier for me was that I had already met with the teacher over the summer so that I could be placed in the appropriate orchestra class, so at least I knew someone.

And then the bell rang. Student after student filed into the room, and I’m sure my jaw must have dropped at some point. My old high school had had one, eleven-person orchestra. This NASH orchestra had over thirty-five people, and there was more than one! It was amazing to see such a strong music program, and while I would never admit this aloud, there were some tears welling up in my eyes.

As I went through the day, quiet as a mouse and getting lost more times than I probably should have, I observed the students, the teachers, the classrooms, the building itself. One of the first details I noticed was just how small the windows were in the school. Honestly, they looked like they’d be more fitting in a prison than a school. I soon learned that I was not alone in that opinion.

Next I had the unfortunate experience of finding out just how many stairs there were when I had to climb up from the gym locker rooms all the way to the top floor. I felt like my legs would give out as I waddled slowly down the hallway, trying desperately to shake the achiness out of my muscles.

And the sheer magnitude of the student body was overwhelming. This two-year senior high school had hundreds more students than my four-year high school in Maryland had.  I went through my first couple of months as a nervous wreck, or, at least more of a nervous wreck than I usually am. And then I finally, finally got my courage back. I started participating more in class, I talked to my teachers and classmates more frequently, I made friends and had people I could sit with at lunch, and I dragged myself out of the dark pit of worry, of anxiety, of reflecting on our choice to move with mixed emotions.

I regret not talking more during those months. Secluding yourself is the worst action you can take in a school like NASH. Reaching out to your counselor, your teachers, or even some acquaintances is in your best interest, especially to those of us who are shy.

Even though North Allegheny Senior High can be a disorienting and intimidating school at first glance, everyone can and will find their place, as long as they put some effort into finding out what that place is. As summer came to a close, I realized just how grateful I was to be here, to be a part of such a wonderful school community, to experience such a different culture even though I only moved one state up.

After seventeen years of feeling out of place and adrift, I’m finally home.