In just a few weeks, my high school career will be over, marking the end of my basic and secondary education. I will head to college, as will many of my peers, while others will enter the workforce, the military, or partake in different post-secondary education opportunities.
Every graduate of CCHS has a story to tell, memories to share, and criticism to give. Never, however, have I seen a comprehensive reflection and analysis of the high school experience at Chamblee. For the students who will follow in my footsteps and all children and adults involved in and affected by this school community, I have taken it upon myself to reflect on my time here.
I am no expert on education, but I consider myself beyond qualified to comment on the Chamblee experience. And, from my perspective now, this school is in the midst of a serious identity crisis.
Beyond all else, what makes our school so unique is its diversity among students: in geography, in background, in interests and pursuits. It is both the our greatest blessing and greatest curse.
This diversity makes Chamblee a place where cultures and ideas come together, forming a tapestry that is rarely replicated elsewhere. Our school is one of the most diverse in the state, both racially and geographically.
However, as a result of a more physically dispersed student population, CCHS has sacrificed many typical high school norms and expectations that could enhance student life immensely. These include a significant sports culture that always brings out droves of support from teens and parents, no matter conditions or location; after-school events focused on student interaction and engagement, such as a Sadie Hawkins dance, outdoor festivals, and ice cream socials; and club activities that can always rely on there being more than 10 students who are willing and able to contribute time and engagement to the club’s cause or purpose.
No group in Chamblee has made a concerted effort to unify this community in the face of these challenges. I’ve heard from many students that Chamblee is not a community they actively seek to be engaged in. Outside of friend groups, there is little interaction between students who have yet to familiarize themselves with each other even after years of sitting in the same classrooms.
This is the greatest missed opportunity by everyone – staff, students, parents, stakeholders – here at CCHS. With the diversity among individuals in our school, whether religious, ethnic, racial, gender, or geographical, there is the chance to foster a haven for unity and understanding in a time where those in power have tried to drive a wedge between those who are different from one another. Yet, this very possibility has been made to seem like an impossibility.
The stigma that you must be academically challenged in order to be accepted more so than others at Chamblee is a dangerous misnomer that has only made it more difficult to build a stronger, more engaged Chamblee community.
This has been coupled with a lackluster effort by administration and faculty to properly and effectively integrate redistricted students into the school environment. Kids who have been in the Chamblee cluster since elementary school barely interact with students who arrived at CCHS as freshmen or sophomores. It doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way; students coming from places like Cross Keys should feel welcomed and encouraged to meet new people, not ignored and treated like they’re basically invisible. Language and heritage are not and must not be barriers to friendship.
On top of this, a historically central character in Chamblee’s spirited tradition, the football program, has been reduced to an underperforming and underwhelming aspect of a more broadly underappreciated sports program at our school. Once a point of pride at the school, there is now desperation by the coaching staff to even find enough players; hesitation nationwide to expose kids to the dangers of the sport, along with a Chamblee football program not properly supported by the community, has torn the program to pieces and put its very existence in danger.
Chamblee, over my four years here, has seemed to have undergone a culture shift which has brought academic pressure to the forefront; as a result, we have abandoned the potential for a healthy social community that includes a strong sports culture and which has sacrificed school spirit for in-class achievement. High school is meant to be a formative time of personal growth and learning. The opportunity to feel belonging in this community should not and must not be sacrificed.
Chamblee Charter High School will only continue to expand and welcome more students over the next few years. The school’s biggest test won’t be a Georgia Milestone, or an AP or final exam, but whether or not it can restore the sense of community and spirit that has been lost in my time here. I hope I return to the CCHS I was welcomed into. I hope the Chamblee of the future aces this next test.