Lessons from High School

“Alright everyone. Take as many pieces as you want. Now, tell us the name of your high school, what town it is located in, your mascot, and your life lesson learned during that time”.

This was not the way I expected a day long finance meeting to begin. And yet, how insightful it was!

Sitting in a room with 25 people, of various roles,we stepped back into our teenage lives with what else… an ice-breaker!

Here, in this moment, we were all equal. It didn’t matter if you had 3 letters in your suffix, if you can explain a derivatives trade, or an M&A. Right now, it was about taking walls down, so that there were no fear of stupid questions. There was only the concern of unasked questions.

In the next twenty minutes, we went around the room with one major similarity. Nearly everyone stated one of their life lessons from their high schools years was  the importance of relationships.

Mine was of the same vain, but through a unique story. I went to a regional private school. Various backgrounds led our cafeteria to look like a mini-UN. However, we were fourteen years old. Nearly all of us had spent our lives in our small, homogenous, geographically based tribes. Comfortable with that structure, our lunch room looked the same.

So, our principal set the tone. Any time she spoke, over the loud speaker, or at a formal event, she called us the UC Community. Not our school, not our home of the next few years, not our academy. Our community.

Years later, I realize that structuring our mindset wasn’t about reaching that end goal,the ideal of breaking down every barrier, such as our lunch tables. Sure, that would have been great. But this was just the beginning. This was just the dawn of our adult lives. Through her leadership, we could at least recognize that we are all one group. All worthy. All equal. All part of the same. Of one community. This one.

And our community was broader than these walls. Somewhere during my junior year, Sr Percylee expressed to us a sentiment she had truly taken to, that she wanted us to live by after our graduation. This was the idea of  “Do Good, Be Good, Be a Power for Good”. While we are part of this smaller group, we are also a part of the global community. If in our lives we can strive to be inclusive and work for good, we will true have learned enormous lessons.

Relationships, tearing down barriers that block us from seeing each other as equal, striving to do good, these are life lessons from my high school years, my community. To me, it is amazing that over a decade later, I can still recite these words and strive to live my life by them.


What are your life lessons from high school?


7 responses

  1. Oooohh Kate! What a neat post. I have been thinking of it on my walk with Journey just now. What WERE my lessons from high school??? I’m still not sure. But I love your lesson of community with your principal calling yours the UC Community. That is such a beautiful lesson.

  2. That is a great way to start a meeting and make everyone feel like they’re on a level playing field. On the other hand just the mention of the word high school and having to say anything positive about it fill me with dread.

    I love the fact that your principal called it the “UC Community.” It’s definitely a nice way of reminding people of varied backgrounds that they’re all part of the same larger space, but I think small town high schools with zero diversity would also benifit from referring to themselves as communities. It’s a great lesson for kids that they are always part of something bigger than themselves.

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