- 'Back-to-School Memories' originally appeared in the September 2023 education issue of COMO Business Times.
As the back-to-school season rolls around, my mind always drifts back to my own educational journey. Those early school days feel like a chapter from an old book, filled with the memory of neighborhood kids walking together to school, teachers who taught all your family members, and the sound of kids laughing on a roughly poured blacktop during recess.
The memories of that version of school are clear in my mind, a picture of innocence and shared experiences. However, my time in that idyllic setting was fleeting, spanning only from kindergarten to third grade, before an unexpected twist took me into a new academic season.
The label “gifted” was attached to me after a few rounds of tests, and with it came an acceptance letter to a special program at Classical Junior Academy. This uncharted territory filled me with fear — the prospect of leaving behind familiar faces to go into a world where strangers came from every corner of the greater St. Louis area was both daunting and thrilling.
As I stepped into those new hallways, I had no idea of the profound impact this change would have on my life.
My time at Classical Junior Academy extended all the way through eighth grade, marking a transformative period that remains a highlight of my young life. The education I received within those walls was unparalleled, a testament to the dedication of remarkable educators who led us through core subjects with a mastery that left a mark. Programs like Junior Great Books firmly instilled a love of reading that I still have today. Yet, it was not merely the academic lessons that made this chapter exceptional; it was the palette of choices we were offered.
Within those halls, PE and dance fought for our attention alongside the options for vocal music versus instrumental music. This is where I found myself jumping into the world of classics, taught by Ms. Hughes, while also realizing I could never remember my trombone after the bus rides.
Dance became an unexpected great love for me. Ballet and modern dance classes every other day helped me forge some of the best memories I have of that time. Our dance instructor Ms. Smith reminded us of Debbie Allen and when I was in that studio I felt like we were extras on the TV show Fame. The recitals we performed were legendary — it was so fun to look around that gym from the stage and see it wall-to-wall packed.
Beyond the academic and artistic parts, what hangs around most in my memory are the relationships that were created. I had peers from backgrounds that were radically different from my own, each one of them contributing to my knowledge in ways that books could not. The lessons learned from these interactions extended way beyond the classroom, enriching my education in ways that transcended tradition.
Looking back, it’s clear that education is not confined to textbooks and classes alone. It includes the people who guide us, the friendships that shape us, and the experiences that mold us into multifaceted individuals. My early educational journey showcases the transformative power of education in its broadest sense.
As another generation embarks on their own scholastic journey, may they encounter the magic that comes from an education that extends beyond the conventional, enriching their lives in ways that they cannot yet imagine.
Adonica Coleman is the founder of The COMO 411 and owner of A2D Events.