A Student’s Journey through the U Prep Schools Village
I’ve gone to the same school since the 3rd grade. Elementary, Middle, and High. Seeing as I just graduated, that’s a long time to be in the same space with the same people. In that time, I’ve seen many changes–with students, faculty, the school name, and even the lunch provider. So it’s an interesting experience to have favorite teachers outgrow a building before you do, to watch your 3rd-grade teacher become the principal of that elementary school, or have your 5th-grade math teacher be there all the way to 8th grade as an after-school Academic Games coach.
I found it was this routine, this year-by-year rhythm of education continuity, that was the most valuable in figuring out my life goals.
Though I’m slightly biased–coming from a family of entrepreneurs and entertainers–I’d been surrounded by many artistic freedoms for the entirety of my youth. Design Thinking classes engrained early the ideas of empathy, team collaboration, and prototyping. It was moving into Middle School (back when we were still called Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies), where I found it increasingly necessary to have a plan. So I determined my end goal from this schooling experience with an idea of what I want out of my life.
I’d always found comfort in drawing and saw it as more than just a hobby. The revelation that there were jobs where I’d get paid for drawing had me shook, and going to an Art-focused middle & high school located within the walls of an Art & Design college (The College for Creative Studies), it was clear where the scope of my interests had narrowed down. Throughout the U Prep Schools network, I experienced an expectation of excellence and the encouragement of personal accomplishment, not only in academics but in the community’s name as well.
I had difficulty starting conversations with other students when I was younger. Looking them in the eye or voicing my opinions didn’t come easy to me unless it involved someone I blatantly knew wouldn’t judge me. After joining after-school clubs, participating in school assemblies, and being elected to the student council, I began to flourish socially. In 7th grade, our then photography teacher, Mrs. Magarosi, approached me when she found out I was interested in the arts. She appeared quite intimidating among the students in her stare and finality with instruction, so I was hesitant with her suggestion of joining the National Art Honor Society. As a middle school student, I would not technically qualify to join the club until I advanced to high school. But from her simple suggestion to apply, I would later serve six years in the NAHS, dramatically increasing my portfolio work. I am proud to share that I graduated as Club President this month.
These accomplishments have not come by my merit alone. I mentioned my former art teacher, though many have impacted me significantly. Two math teachers stand out: Ms. Ragland, who taught 8th-grade algebra and was also the coach for most of the girls’ sports teams, helped inspire my path. I joined her during the basketball season in all my asthmatic glory and stayed through to softball season. This 4’8 bundle of energy and enthusiasm for the sport and our success in enjoying it as much as she did, was what kept me coming back. I will never forget in 10th grade the disappointment on her and many of our faces after two months of pre-season conditioning. Sadly, the day of softball tryouts was when we shut down for COVID, but the joy I experienced during my time as a team member under Ragland’s tutelage will last a lifetime.
Another excellent math teacher has been one I’ve known since the 3rd grade, having been sent up to his class to learn long division. Mr. Waston started the Academic Games team at the then HFA: Elementary (now UPAD Elementary) for any new players who wanted to learn. Over 20 trophies sit in the UPAD elementary and middle school front windows from our team’s wins over the years. I distinctly remember in the 4th grade, when we returned from a four-day trip to the super tournament, we were dropped back off at the school. Class was still in session as we lugged in suitcases, but the literal second we came through the front door, every single student and teacher was standing and cheering in the main front desk area, congratulating the ten students who went for that first year. It’s one of the memories those of us who stayed years after like to reminisce about.
I actively avoided going home in middle school due to my parent’s divorce and the grief that came with it. Academic Games provided a couple of hours of peace filled with complex mathematical equations to stress over rather than unwanted emotions. I also met my best friend through that club. I would have continued with academic games in 8th grade; however, Mr. Waston advanced to a new position at another campus.
As fate would have it, this year – our senior year – there were five of us who had played in elementary school, which is the exact number of players needed to make a team. We came back from the Super tournament this March victorious, with two first-place trophies for our district!
There are so many moments and long stretches of time with people who indirectly raised me within the U Prep Village that I hold dear and who, in my pursuit of a career, helped me find myself. With the excitement of being twelve steps closer to where I want to be, I know nine steps were taken in shoes I doubt I’ll ever outgrow. So it takes a village. Thank you, U Prep Schools!
Micah was a founding student at U Prep Art & Design Elementary and matriculated through the district. She ended her U Prep Schools journey as the 2021-22 Valedictorian at U Prep Art & Design High School and was awarded scholarships to attend the School of Visual Arts. She will join that community in the Fall with plans to become a Director of Television Animation.