BY OLIVIA NOLAND AND CARA FINNEY
Teenagers at Deer Park are often outspoken about the problems they face as high school students, and the overall challenging experience of high school life in a small community. Given Deer Park student’s feelings toward high school life, we wondered if the struggles Deer Park students face are a direct result of a small high school environment, or if they are shared by teenagers in various communities. We decided to interview two Walnut Hills sophomores on the struggles they face at their school, and whether Ohio’s top public school lives up to it’s prestigious reputation.
Sophomore Dillon Vorherr says, “I feel like walnut is rated so high because you have the opportunity to do as much as you want to.” He adds, “There are classes that I’m not even gonna be able to take, but for kids that are really, really smart, they can be taking multivariable calculus as a sophomore. So the opportunities are endless, it just depends what you want to make of it.”
Walnut’s reputation for academic success is thought be partially accredited to the entrance exam future students must pass in order to get in. However, some students feel that the test has no real significance when it comes to Walnut academics.
“It was not exactly indicative of how you’re gonna do at walnut. I got a 99 on both portions and I still struggled- I came in 7th grade,” Vorherr explains about the entrance exam. ““I think that it almost evaluates your reasoning skills. It’s not like “Oh, are you smart?” or whatever. It’s more like can you take a test well?” Is what they’re wanting to see. Because there’s some kids that are pretty smart but don’t get in because they’re not good at test taking.””
Sophomore Abigail Jay adds agrees, saying “Nowadays they want the top percentile at the school, but I don’t think it has any indication of how you’ll do at Walnut.”
Vorherr claims that his transition to Walnut in seventh grade was a difficult one, where he struggled with managing new academic liberty- something an entrance exam simply couldn’t prepare him for. He says, “I don’t want to say that the academics here were harder than my old school, but there was just a lot more freedom. And with that freedom comes more responsibility.” He adds, “Like, you don’t get punished for missing homework assignments, you just get zeros. You don’t get study guides really- you have to study on your own. You have to learn how to take notes and to process information at your own level and kind of teach yourself which is a lot different. I don’t want to say that it’s hard, but if you’re not willing to put in the effort then it will be hard.”
Another Walnut challenge? Competition among peers.
“If you have like a 3 GPA, like a high 3-that’s pretty good at some other schools, that like gets you into college. But at Walnut, with the whole class rank thing it’s extremely competitive.” Vorherr explains. “Especially like, if you were interested in music and took band class, as soon as you’re a junior or senior year and you take a band class it automatically… you will not be able to be in the top 20 percent. Even if you got an A that’s only a 4 not a 6 so kids were kind of like, dropping classes that they were interested in, just trying to boost their gpa. That’s the competitiveness.”
Jay adds, “Walnut is super competitive, which is one of the reasons they abolished class rank for our grade, because it was like the top students were competing with each other to get their gpa’s a fraction of a point higher than the other to be valedictorian.”
Vorherr claims that because Walnut has such rigorous academics, he’s not worried about his future as a student. “I’ve heard from multiple people that once they graduate, their senior year at Walnut is much harder than their freshman year at college. And like some classes that you take, like APs here, you can pretty much just kind of sit through your college class and you’ll get an A because you were prepared for it in high school,” he explains.
Jay agrees, adding, “A lot of the history teachers and some other teachers teach in the way that college teachers would, where they’re lecturing and you have to take notes while they’re talking and it prepares you really well for the way you have to study and prepare yourself in college.”
The struggles that come to light in such a large school with tough academics only make Walnut students more motivated to create a positive and encouraging environment for their peers. Jay says, “Even though Walnut is really competitive, the student body is very supportive of one another. It’s very much like a community.”