Ode to the Night

Everything I have is nothing I need

Black as black can be

It holds the secrets of the past

And the mysteries of the future

The pearled sky flickers

Stars embroidered on the black fabric of the night

The cool wind whips the trees

The scent of a nearby campfire lingers

You hear the toads and crickets mingling in the darkness

The beasts of the obscurity out to hunt

Slowly the night becomes no more

The flare of day rises

Then you realize 

Everything I see is everything I need

Celebrating College

As if this time of year doesn’t hold enough college admission angst, I decided this past weekend to tackle Netflix’s newly released docudrama: Varsity Blues, The College Admission Scandal.

Because I had followed every twist and turn of that case since it erupted two years ago, I figured it would provide a little light distraction as I graded AP World History essays and Humanities reading journals.

I was wrong. In fact, I got NO grading done as I once again descended into the depths of the largest college admission scheme ever prosecuted by the federal government.

Through reenactments and interviews with those involved, the docudrama vividly recounted the lengths to which wealthy and influential parents went to secure spots for their children in some of the nation’s most-selective colleges and universities.

Some paid millions of dollars to buy the help of those who could game the system when it came to admissions to schools including Yale, Stanford, Harvard, USC and many others.

Fifty people – including parents, test administrators and college coaches – were charged in the scheme, which involved hiring people to falsify SAT results, wrongfully secure accommodations for standardized testing and pay off coaches to fraudulently recruit students for sports at which they had no college-level expertise.

At the center of the scandal was a for-profit college consultant who parents paid to bribe coaches and college administrators, establishing a “side door” by which the super rich could push their children to the head of the college admission line.

As college counselor, none of this information was new to me. But I was particularly struck at the end of the docudrama as a group of admissions officials, test administrators and others layered context onto the chaos that too often surrounds the college admissions process, especially when it comes to the scramble to gain access to the nation’s so-called top-tier schools.

“What are we doing to these kids by pounding them into the ground with Top 25 (colleges in America), Top 10, Top 5, because ultimately where you do go to school has little or no affect on what will happen to you in the future,” admonished Barbara Kalmus, an independent education consultant featured in the film.

Added Daniel Golden, author of The Price of Admission, a powerful book on how big money buys big access to top schools: “Forget about USC, go someplace else. You can get a great education almost any place if you want it. The parents in this case didn’t believe that.”

This time of year, those words are particularly meaningful.

As of the end of the week, barreling toward the end of this unprecedented school year, our 21 seniors had racked up 103 college acceptances.

Some of those areto the very same top-tier schools that were the focus of so much attention in the docudrama. But many more are to colleges and universities that don’t make any national Top 25 list, but which our students are eager to explore and perhaps attend.

So yes, Johns Hopkins and UCLA and NYU (all top 30 colleges on U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings of best national universities) make this year’s list of OVS college acceptances.

But so does Montana State University, a majestic campus in Bozeman where one of our seniors plans to study photography. And Pepperdine University, where one of our seniors is looking at film studies while another is considering business school. And Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where one of our seniors wants to pursue environmental studies and journalism.

As always, our goal remains to help students find and gain access to their “right fit” colleges and universities, those schools that that are going to fuel their ambitions, sharpen their talents and shape them into the adults they were meant to become.

It’s both easy and crazy making to run to the rankings and compare our acceptance list against those at other schools, keeping a keen eye on those colleges the outside world considers prestigious.

But that does our students a disservice, and it cheapens the curriculum and values that we at Ojai Valley School work so hard to promote.

At OVS, we provide a challenging academic curriculum designed to prepare students for college. But that preparation also includes teaching students to climb a rock face and ride a horse and belt out a solo in the school musical. It involves pushing students to get out of their comfort zones, to contribute to and become part of something larger than themselves, to expand their perspectives and see where and how they fit into the larger world.

In that way, college preparation never stops as OVS.

This week, as many of our seniors enjoyed a gentle rafting trip down Utah’s San Juan River, our sophomores took the PSAT while most of our juniors sat for the first time for the SAT. The juniors also are in the midst of working through the college counseling curriculum, preparing to take on the application process next year.

There are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in this country, and the students will spend a lot of time figuring out which of those will fit best with their talents, interests and passions.

But in so many ways, those choices are simply an extension of a philosophy they’ve been living as OVS students. It’s quite a journey, and I’m lucky enough to be along for the ride.

my real fears

scary movies don’t scare me

for me it’s the psychological mine field that our minds lay out for us

the empty houses that feel a little too empty

emptiness that slowly sets in as you try to navigate your new found awareness for sound, or lack of

the wood creaking wrong under your bare feet

or the toilet flushing, water swirling and filling the bathroom with normal sounds, then suddenly the water sitting still, soundless

back to navigating the defining silence

rushing

but not trying to scare yourself more

to turn on as many lights as possible

but you still feel the darkness lurking behind the walls

in the walls

under the floors

or in your head

sometimes you get a tingling in you spine as you pass by the unlit room

urging you to turn and peer into the darkness,

but you know if you do you have hit the mine

and it will explode

but its not only empty houses that trigger the fear

walking home

walking alone

walking as a woman, alone

gripping your purse as adrenaline grips your body

being followed, but not really

feeling followed, but realizing they were just going on their way to wherever they had to be

felling helpless

in ways you know you shouldn’t

a friend making you uncomfortable

do they know what their doing

or is it in my head

do I say something or is this normal

these things scare me

the mine field makes me aware

but awareness makes me scared

makes me terrified

Image found in Pinterest

Ready, Set, Swim

Although I only started swimming in sixth grade, it has been my passion and hobby ever since. I looked forward to the daily practices and the long conditioning sessions. It was strenuous, but fulfilling.

The main reason that I joined swim was because I did not want to do any team sports, but I had to join at least one team sport per year. Swim came easy to me, especially the flip turns because of my previous gymnastics training. During sixth grade my strokes were breaststroke, back, and free. I was so happy when I got first place during my meets, and getting these results boosted my liking for the sport.

Photo credit: Olympics

I continued swim throughout my middle school years; going to meets, practices, and gym sessions. Middle school sports are really different than high school sports though, and so when high school came along I was scared for swim.

I did not know if I was going to make the team or even progress with my times. My coach did not release the team roster until our first meet… I got on Varsity! Holy Sh*t, I was so proud of myself. During the few meets we had due to Covid, I competed in back, free, and IMs. I was also the backstroke leg for the team medley.

Swim started out just being a scapegoat for me ot having to do a high intensive sport to a passion that I cannot live without.

Seaside

by the sea she sits

watching the waves crash over and over again

her blank stare collided with the violent ocean movements

her fragile body sank into the warmed sand as the water slinked up the beach

desperately trying to touch her

next to her a book that reads Gone With The Wind laid on a small quilt

the checkered baby pink and faded lime green quilt also held an old fashioned film camera and a what seemed to be a collection of shells

at that moment I knew nothing about her accept she may possibly be a romantic due to the book

she interested me because she looked so unbelievably in place

she seemed to simply exist, without disrupting any of the everyday inhabitants, very quietly and naturally

above her seagulls circled in a draft

their wings sat almost as still as she did

she wore a white silk dress and a large scarf that wrapped around her whole upper body

then I see her hand lift and point out into the wide plane of water

she soon retracted her hand, probably remembering that there was no one to show what she had spotted

the water stood still and glassy all the way out to the horizon

I followed in the general direction her finger pointed and saw a large explosion of water, soon after there was another much smaller spout

my best guess is a humpback whale and her calf because it was around the time for their migration

soon after seeing the whale I picked up my things and walked down the beach in the opposite direction of the mysterious woman

hopefully you enjoyed a short glimpse into my outside perspective on an interesting stranger

found on Adobe Stock

The Ups and Downs with Life

As time went on, my emotions started to grow into something not so pretty. My thoughts and feelings followed me everywhere, even when I wanted nothing to do with them. I was trapped and claustrophobic. I would come home from school and sit in silence, and do nothing. My motivation was gone, my happiness was fake, and my mental health was non existent. Sometimes it would hurt to cry because the mental pain I was in.

Photo credit: Joey Guidone

I was getting better. I wanted, no I needed to get better. I talked with someone, a couple someones, and I worked on my mental health. I started feeling bursts of happiness and motivation. These feelings that I have not felt in a long time. I thought I was getting better, I thought life was treating me well. Until it was not.

This time I understood what I was feeling, and I wanted it to stop. I did everything I could to get better, and I knew it was going to be a long process with setbacks. I was kind to myself, as well as patient. It took a while, and I still have ups and downs, but I am getting better. It is a day-by- day process.

I am finally able to say that I’m truly happy with life.

The Perfect Morning

A Perfect Morning

A Rarity

Like finding a four leaf clover

You don’t realize it until it happens

To me

To rise before the sun

Enjoy the calmness of dawn

Watch the sun

The morning is a harmonious time

To listen to the symphony of early morning

A moment where time stops

Once the moment ends the day starts

A perfect start to a perfect day.

Photo Credit: Me

A Culmination

I present my Capstone this Wednesday. It is a culmination of my experiences in high school, and a chance to share a topic I am passionate about. For my “project,” I fostered kittens. Not only will I share my experience, but I hope to educate others on how to care for animals and why it is a community responsibility.

Fostering is vital to the life of every cat. The Humane Society is filled with kittens, yet nobody considers where those kittens were for the first eight weeks of life. Every kitten was either raised outside by their feral mom, or they were fostered by someone who sacrificed their time to raise a kitten.

Fostering kittens gave me firsthand experience with the issue of finding homes for cats. While I “foster-failed” and ended up keeping one of the kittens, I did not have room in my then five-cat household to keep another. I named her Blue, and we took her to the Humane Society where she was adopted.

I look forward to sharing my experience and enthusiasm with my school, and I hope to inspire others to foster kittens and save lives.

Image Credit: Hannah Shaw

Cool Pool

You know that feeling.

Like when you sense something move in the cool stagnant water

underneath the surface,

where it shouldn’t,

it is.

Like being away,

the opposite of home,

and even as you jerk your leg away 

you can feel it cramp,

ripping hot.

You can feel the vessels crimp;

doubled,

twisted,

restricting you,

keeping you just within reach,

within reach of the cool,

the cool of the bottom of the pool

where the water doesn’t move

or isn’t supposed to.

from terra galleria

Racing thoughts

Often at night, I find myself just laying in bed and not being able to shut off my thoughts. There are so many things just racing through my mind. While I lay there, listening to the rain hit the roof of my room, I think about how funny life sometimes is. It can be amazing, you are happy and everything is perfect, and then the next day everything just comes crashing down on you. And when one thing goes wrong suddenly everything starts going wrong and it feels like you are drowning. But then there are those people that just pull you out of that hole. It might take a while to get out, but these people make it so much easier.

Honestly, sometimes you just need someone to listen to you. They don’t even need to say anything. It can feel amazing to just get everything off your chest without being judged for it. And once you make it through rough times you have so much to be proud of. You can reflect back to the times where you were at you lowest and look at yourself and say “I made it through this” and it proves how strong we are as a person.

So I lay in bed, and think about all the things of the past weeks, and I just think about how lucky I am to have people that support me in anything I do.

https://stories.jotform.com/the-art-of-thinking-5-steps-to-improve-your-life-and-business-da3a817903a5