Be My Guest: How School Changed My Life
The following is the mission statement that 12th grader Cody Bogausch recently submitted to the graduation committee at the Harriet Tubman Democratic High School. HTDHS began as the high school extension of the Albany Free School, and I teach math there three mornings a week and also serve on the advisory board. I asked Cody if I could post his letter because of how beautifully it expresses the enormous difference a school that gives students a voice in their education and supports every aspect of their developing selves can make in a young person’s life.
Although it seems like an eternity ago, I remember the day I visited the school for the first time. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had no idea what an incredible and life-changing place I was walking into. At the time, I was struggling to stay happy and motivated. My family had been all but destroyed by alcoholism, my grades were non-existent and my desire to participate in school was gone. I was very unhappy with my life and myself. I walked in here that day very nervous, but my nerves quickly melted away as I spoke with Liz about this school and the kinds of things I’d be doing here.
This place was amazing; it was the perfect solution to my problems. Education at my pace, centered around my goals. It’s direct democracy in practice. I knew by the end of that conversation that I had to go to this school. And so I did (although not immediately after). It was amazing how quickly my life picked up and turned around once I was attending school here. I was happier; less stressed out. I had time to be myself and think. I enjoyed my time at school! I was less angry, less short tempered, more reasonable, smarter even!
This place has allowed me to harness potential I didn’t even know I had. I’ve learned about music, math, science, literature, writing, computer programming, philosophy, sociology, history; things I didn’t even know I was interested in. I learned how to teach. I learned how to debate, and how to know when I’m wrong. Most importantly, though, this school taught me how to learn. It has taught me how to teach myself. How to be self-motivated. How to do work even when I don’t want to, even when someone’s not telling me I have to. This place is beautiful and I am so unbelievably glad I found it. I wouldn’t be a speck of the person I am today without this place. Thank you.
I plan to use the things I’ve learned at this school to guide me into my adult life, whatever that may consist of. I’ll be honest; I don’t really know what I want to do yet. I don’t know what I will do with my life or how I’ll do it. What I do know is that whatever I decide to do, I’m confident that the things I’ve learned here will be an asset in overcoming any challenge that presents itself to me. Thank you, again.