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Antonella Dahlstrom-Afcha: I look back at high school in wonder

May 24, 2018 GMT

Over the years, my parents and I have watched several acclaimed television shows, such as “The Munsters,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “I Love Lucy” — the list could go on and on.

Although I hold many of these series close to my heart, the one that I frequently find myself revisiting is the ’80s family drama “The Wonder Years.” The show stars a young Fred Savage as Kevin Arnold, the show’s protagonist. Although “The Wonder Years” takes place during Kevin’s childhood and teen years, it is narrated by Kevin as an adult. During its six-season run, we watch as Kevin makes mistakes and learns from them, as he grows to understand his family in a new and different way, as he experiences first love, meets new people, comes to understand this chaotic world and, ultimately, grows up.

One of my favorite lines comes from the series finale. Reflecting back on his childhood, Kevin says, among other things, “I remember how hard it was growing up among the people and places I loved. Most of all, I remember how hard it was to leave. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back … in wonder.”

I see the truth in that statement. In fact, I can’t bring myself to watch that episode today because of how deeply that statement reminds me of my own high school experience. When I look back on my middle school and high school years, I am filled with wonder. I marvel at how quickly time passed; I laugh at old memories, groan at the terrible mistakes I’ve made, and cry when I realize that this amazing stage of life is over.

Today I am finishing my last day of senior year final exams. I will graduate from Schaeffer Academy in two days. And while I have no doubt that other seniors in my class and in Rochester are rejoicing that these four long years of high school are over, I cannot help but feel sad. I know that, as I march to “Pomp and Circumstance” with the rest of my class, I am walking away from my life at a wonderful school.

Looking back, I remember how my classmates and teachers welcomed me with open arms when I left my former school in seventh grade. I transferred from a draining school environment where I experienced bullying and exclusion. The hardest thing about my experience there was that I had known my classmates for over six years, and I loved my school; things changed, though, and the situation became more difficult each day. After the first quarter of seventh grade, I decided that I had had enough and that it was time to move on. This is where Schaeffer Academy came in. From my very first day there, my classmates showered me with overwhelming love, respect, and kindness. They helped to make smooth and easy what could well have been a very difficult transition.

I am glad that I made the decision to venture into a new environment. And though it was hard to grow up and leave the place that I loved, I realize that I would not be who I am today had I not made this transition. No matter how hard it will be for me to say goodbye to my friends and teachers at Schaeffer Academy, I have made a plethora of memories to carry with me. So, I can honestly say that, as I walk up to receive my diploma, I will look back on these last five years … in wonder.