On Thursday, February 7th, we travelled to Ohio’s top rated public high school, Walnut Hills, to expand our high school experience beyond Deer Park. We visited the large campus and interviewed various Walnut students with help from our mentor for the day, Editor and Chief of the Yearbook, Grace Sublett. Although the school is just down the street from Deer Park, the inner city campus proved to have remarkable differences from our small suburb community.
Upon stepping foot on the school grounds we were immediately aware of one dramatic difference between Walnut Hills and Deer Park: the size. According to Walnut faculty, the school has about 3000 students enrolled, compared to Deer Park’s estimate of a mere 600. The grounds were bustling around 7:30 am as the teenagers made their way through various doors. Scrambling through metal detectors and unzipping heavy backpacks for the morning security check, it was the type of environment where if one simply blinked, they may very well get separated from the classmate they planned on walking to first bell with.
As we observed the campus throughout the day, we paid special attention and took note of the school’s architecture. Given the building was modeled off of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and the University of Virginia, it’s no surprise that tall cylindrical pillars and lengthy stairways take center stage around the exterior. Inside the school, sculptures and high ceilings make the environment feel prestigious, almost as if just being there gives you immediate credibility.
Walnut Hills seemed to be an uplifting and motivating environment for the students who attend. The students at Walnut seemed to possess an attitude toward school that is unmatched to any of our own classmates, or to that of ourselves. I didn’t encounter a single student who was moping through the hallway entirely disengaged from his/her surroundings, or voicing complaints about that day’s assignment. Rather, the students seemed driven to learn, and happy to be a part of an exclusive student body. Walnut has built a reputation for next level education through the challenging conditions it places on it’s students. Not only are those attending Walnut required to pass an entrance exam in order to be admitted into the school, but they also must maintain a certain GPA to keep their spot.
Such a selective environment certainly poses opportunity, but not without a few additional struggles. Some students at Walnut were quick to voice complaints about the large size of the school, saying that such a vast student body makes acceptance on to sports teams difficult. Others said that the school left them without a sense of identity or belonging, as they had never spoken to the majority of their classmates. Walnut may have a beautiful campus and driven student body, Walnut lacks the tight-knit community feel and core sense of belonging that Deer Park so effortlessly instills in it’s students.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Over the coming weeks, Ms. Noland and Ms. Finney will publish a series of articles related to their experience at Walnut Hills as well as their conversations with students from both schools about what it means to be a high schooler these days.