Deborah Brown on one of her first days of elementary school at Beren Academy. At high school graduation, “I will look back and reflect on how much I’ve grown since I started coming here in preschool,” she writes. Photos courtesy of Deborah Brown
Junior year is over. It’s hard to believe. This has been one of the busiest and most productive years of my life. I’ve taken four AP classes, not to mention both the SAT and ACT. I’ve acted in my school’s production of “Aladdin,” been a delegate to Model UN and the AIPAC Policy Conference and wrote a column for my school newspaper. I’ve been a Bnei Akiva counselor for elementary school girls; a leader of women’s prayer services at my synagogue; the founder of my school’s girls’ davening program; a teen Israel ambassador for the Jewish Federation of Houston; a teen board member of Houston Yachad; a member of the Beren Israel Club, the Judaic Arts Initiative Committee, girls’ choir; and more. It’s been crazy and also incredibly rewarding. But now all that’s behind me and something even bigger looms ahead: senior year.
In Late August I will walk through the doors of Robert M. Beren Academy for the first day, for the last time. I feel both nervous and excited.
What will await me in my final year of high school? I’ve heard many things about senior year, some good and some bad. Former students have told me about the stress of the first semester with college applications. They have described staying up late to finish their applications while juggling studying for AP classes and participating in lots of extracurricular activities. I am nervous for all of the big decisions I will have to make and the pressures that comes with them.
I am afraid of turning into a lazy senior in the second semester. I don’t want to catch Senioritis like many of my older friends who lost all their motivation after they applied to college. Students infected with Senioritis don’t do their homework, skip davening in the morning so they can sleep late and when they come to class they goof off and don’t learn anything. As appealing as the thought of not doing any work is, I love learning and don’t want to stop just yet. I’m especially excited to take classes I haven’t taken yet like psychology and AP English, and I don’t think anyone could possibly force me to give up Gemara or Hebrew. Plus, I know slacking off will reflect badly on me if colleges see a sudden drop in my grades. (Photo: Deborah Brown, member of the Class of 2017.)
The thought of a gap year in Israel is exciting. All of the programs sound so good that I don’t know how I’ll choose only one. I will be faced with many tough choices: Do I want a co-ed or a girls-only program? Do I want something religious, Zionist or modern? Will I study Gemara, Chumash or secular studies? Do I want to live in Jerusalem or further away, where there may be a security risk? Fortunately, Beren makes it easier on us by taking the seniors on a two-week Israel trip in November to tour yeshivot, seminaries and other programs so we can narrow down where we want to apply. I hope this trip will be a refreshing break from all of the preparations for college and will help me decide what I want my year in Israel to be.
Of course, I will also graduate next year, which is bittersweet. I will have to write a graduation speech (because Beren is a small school, every student speaks at graduation), buy a fancy dress, and wear a cap and gown. I will look back and reflect on how much I’ve grown since I started coming here in preschool. Beren Academy has given me an incredible love of Judaism, of Israel, of standing up for what I believe in and of learning. And it’s not over yet. I have one more year to enjoy everything the school offers, in and out of class. This year will be the culmination of everything I have accomplished, every friend I’ve made, every teacher I’ve had, every Shabbat I’ve celebrated, every club and group I’ve joined and everything else that has been a valuable part of my school experience. I’d better make it the best year yet!
Whatever challenges senior year gives me, I will persevere and will make it through the year. And when I walk out of school next May on the last day, for the last time, I will be ready for the real world because of the education I got at the Beren Academy.
Here’s to the class of 2017!