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“I hate coming to this school.” I vividly remember overhearing during the first week at my new school. I couldn’t believe someone would say such a thing in America. Back in Japan, students certainly complained about school but never with such anger. However, over the next couple of weeks, I could see why my American classmates professed their hatred on a daily basis. Our campus was covered in graffiti with profanity written on the walls, along with constant vandalism and trash littering the bathroom floors. It seemed the students at my school were just zombies who attended classes out of obligation, rather than out of interest. As an outsider looking in, it was difficult not to succumb to the negativity of some of my peers. Instead, I focused on the positives and what I found is that American high schools have many advantages too. On my way to lunch, I spotted a large bulletin board filled with application forms for sports teams and clubs. Immediately, I was tingling with excitement. It seemed like a whole new world where a school could be used to develop my hobbies and interests. My previous schools in Korea tended to focus only on education, with every student rushing to leave at the final bell. Out of curiosity, I signed up for any and every club that interested me, hoping to make new friends and discover the benefits of my American education. After becoming more involved, I made friends and slowly learned the whole story about **** High School. Overall, it was a great place but it was not without its faults.There were many areas that required improvement and programs that desperately needed to be established. Instead of complaining, I decided to be proactive; I asked teachers and friends about the shortcomings they saw and invited opinions on how to improve. After listening, I jotted down potential solutions or ideas I had in mind. Even though I wasn’t confident whether I could make big changes, I decided to give it a try and scheduled a meeting with my principal to make a proposal. “I want to paint the school.” The principal blankly stared at me with a perplexed look. “You want to do what?” I explained how painting our school will make our campus cleaner and promote a sense of belonging. Looking unsure, he told me I’m not allowed to alter any exterior walls due to school regulations but I was welcome to come back a week later with a formal written proposal. For a week after our conversation, I stayed up late at night thinking about how to make my plans a reality. In the end, what I proposed was bathroom mural project. Since it would be nearly impossible for me to paint all eighteen bathrooms by myself, I suggested that each club could adopt a bathroom and develop a theme related to their subject or interest. Unlike before, the principal gave his consent and club officers were more than happy to help out. As the president of Math Honor Society myself, I directed our club to paint our school’s mascot, “A Patriot,” outlined with mathematical equations. Even though the project is still in progress, all the improvements our school made in such a short amount of time made me extremely proud. It was gratifying to see teachers and students willing to cooperate and strive to create a better campus and community. Furthermore, I have learned to stay optimistic and to see the potential in the bad things, instead of capitulating to a negative atmosphere that threatened to take over our school. Even though I still occasionally hear people say “I hate coming to this school,” I blame it on stress or their classes rather than the campus. After all, this place has become more welcoming and beautiful since I first started, what is there to complain about?
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