Stepping onto the Sunny Hills campus for the first time in over three years, I still felt like a freshman.
Just like my first day of ninth grade in August 2017, I printed out a map of the campus and highlighted which classrooms I had classes in. I had known how the building numbering system worked when I was here the first time around, but that knowledge had faded.
The only difference: I was a senior, not a freshman.
I hadn’t been to Sunny Hills in so long because I made the decision to switch to homeschooling in ninth grade to accommodate my pre-professional ballet training schedule.
In eighth grade, I had chosen Sunny Hills over Troy because I loved the friendly environment, beautiful campus and closer proximity to my house. Although my brother (the black sheep of the family) is a Troy alumnus, my mother and her two sisters are Sunny Hills graduates; enrolling here felt like a preservation of the family tradition.
I enjoyed being a student here at Sunny Hills, but at the time, I lacked flexibility when it came to reconciling my dance and school schedule.
The ballet academy where I danced was about an hour’s drive from Fullerton, and because I started to get more serious about my training the summer before freshman year, I began to have classes and rehearsals for three or four hours every weekday afternoon, with up to eight hours on Saturdays and four hours on Sundays.
Although it doesn’t work for everyone, homeschooling was a great fit for me because it allowed me to do schoolwork at any time that was most convenient (including weekends) and even take ballet lessons in the mornings.
Between my sophomore and junior years, I was lucky enough to study in Russia for six weeks with the National Security Language Initiative for Youth Program. This trip wouldn’t have been possible had I attended public school because it ran until the end of August. Instead of missing school, I was able to add on a few more weeks at the end of the school year.
I loved ballet, but at the end of my junior year I realized that I no longer wished to pursue it at such an all-consuming level. As a result, I started thinking about coming back to public school to finish my high school education.
When I first told my parents I wanted to return to Sunny Hills, they were a little hesitant because they were worried it would be difficult to make friends so late in the game and because transferring back to public school would come with a lot of administrative paperwork.
While finishing up my senior year doing homeschooling might have been easier, I chose to take the risk and come back to Sunny Hills with my family’s support. Because my main social outlet previously came from spending hours at the dance studio, attending public school would help me avoid the social isolation that comes with studying alone all day.
Luckily, joining the cross country team this year helped me make a lot of new friends, even when school was in full distance learning.
Senior year looked a lot different than my freshman experience because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I am no less impressed with the caliber of education Sunny Hills offers. Despite spending months in distance learning, the teachers have gone out of their way to play their parts in the Sunny Hills mission of believing in the potential of all students and providing world-class educational experiences individualized to students’ post-high school goals.
Though I have not spent the entirety of my four-year high school journey at Sunny Hills, I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it for a short period of time. Come May 27, I will be proud to graduate as a Lancer, just like my mother and two aunts who came before me.