By Savanna Gray.
My decision to switch to Heritage Academy in January of last year was a drastic change for me. Only knowing the familiarity of attending public schools, I was almost overwhelmed by how different Heritage Academy was from my old high school, Mountain View.
There were so many overwhelming differences. The most obvious difference that stood out to me was how much smaller Heritage is. Mountain View had a total of 3,343 students attending during the 2015-2016 school year (US World News and Report), while last year’s yearbook stated that Heritage had a total of 707 students, including the junior high. Mountain View, which has grown since then, had nearly five times the amount of students that Heritage had just last year. Though many people who attend Mountain View don’t mind the large numbers, I found that it was easier to fall through the cracks and be forgotten. What really impressed me was that before I came to this school, Dr. Moore took the time to get to know me and when I would see him around campus he even managed to remember my name. While this doesn’t seem like much, after coming from a school where I didn’t even know my principal’s name, this really made me feel like I mattered at Heritage (something that I hadn’t felt at Mountain View).
Another drastic difference between the two schools, I quickly realized, was the attitudes of the students. Because of Mountain View’s large numbers, there is a higher concentration of students who do not care about their schoolwork. This was a challenge for me because I felt as if some of their negative attitudes towards school began to have an impact on me. However, many of these students could be avoided by taking honors courses. I found that students who took more challenging classes often valued their education and grades, while general classes were filled with people that did not want to learn. Unlike Mountain View, it feels as if the majority of students at Heritage share a more positive outlook on schooling. Even though it doesn’t always seem this way, I’ve recognized that many students I know have set goals and standards that they try to meet each year. In fact, a study done on the 2017 AZMerit tests by the American Charter Schools Association showed that all ethnic groups attending public charter schools “outperformed the state average” in Math and English.
Though higher test scores are a big plus for our school, one major drawback to our excellent standards is the increased pressure to do well. Many times I’ll see students beating themselves up about a low test score or insulting themselves if they fail to meet their standards. While this still occurred at Mountain View, I find it happening much more at Heritage. This pressure can be very damaging, as it can cause students to overwork themselves to the point of losing motivation.
Although I know moving to Heritage was the right decision, I am still grateful for my experience at Mountain View and I don’t regret attending. I learned many valuable lessons during my time there and created relationships that I still cherish today. While it might not be for everyone, I realize that Heritage Academy is the right fit for me. I am looking forward to my next few years at this school and the memories that I will make.
Analyses of 2017 AzMerit Data. American Charter Schools Association, azcharters.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2017-Accountability-Fact-Sheet_final_onlineonly.pdf.
“The Student Body at Mountain View High School in Mesa, AZ.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/arizona/ districts/mesa-unified-district/mountain-view-high-school-1008/student-body.