“I’m going to Hotchkiss,” “I’ve been accepted at Andover,” or “I can’t wait to leave in September for Kent”—are all snatches of conversation I have heard over summers while working at KIPP Reach, my former middle school, whenever recent, successful graduates come by to see their favorite teachers. If they say “Hi” and ask me about Massachusetts, Deerfield, or my college plans, I smile. I recognize in them the pride and achievement (and fear) that was once, and probably still is, in me.
But for every kid who goes from KIPP Reach’s eighth grade class to the freshman class of Exeter, there are at least twenty classmates who will never get the opportunity. With speculation, I would say that also goes for most students in the greater Oklahoma City area, the state of Oklahoma, the southwest region, and the United States. I wonder if the kids headed to prep schools realize what that means.
I am not talking solely about the problem of boarding high schools being seen as elite or reformative in public thought, but a closely-tied predicament. Boarding-school students often have such overflowing pride for their institutions and personal achievements (or prefer to speak only with students in similar situations) that it, by accident, borders on snobbery and insensitivity towards others of different circles (read: less-privileged high schools).
These issues stem from conversations and actions. As prep-school students, we need to be sensitive to how we portray and talk to others about Deerfield, this way of life, and our thoughts on different paths. How we live our lives may be the only hint that outsiders ever get as to what institutions like Deerfield are truly like.
If the kids leaving KIPP and Oklahoma ever want advice from me, I would tell them that the real beginning of their high school career is when they learn to be respectful of those they are soon to encounter at school, as well as to those whom they are leaving at home.