Sam Payne

Afraid of Change

Oftentimes, when people find themselves in an unfamiliar place like a new school, multiple challenges hit them at once.  They encounter new faces, different lifestyles, and contrasting experiences.  It can all be overwhelming, especially for those who struggle socially or have been negatively affected by past experiences.  Among all factors, the uncertainty and unknown aspects of a new environment can be the most challenging. This is a situation where I found myself by moving to The Donoho School in the 2017-2018 school year. It was a move that would alter the course of my life.

Up until the seventh grade, I had been attending a public school in my hometown. As I progressed through middle school, I found it harder and harder to be there, as I felt like it was not a good fit for me on several different levels. On some days, I would come home and seclude myself from my family because I just wanted to be left alone and not think about my challenges and setbacks.  While I still liked some elements of the public school and had a few friends there, the environment both educationally and socially was one in which my parents and I did not feel would be sustainable as I grew older. So, near the end of my seventh grade year, I started touring local private schools to see if any would be a viable option for me.

As my new journey began, it was all a very intimidating experience. I knew I would be amongst people my age who had been more challenged academically. It was also very hard for me to imagine private school life as I thought there was a stigma for kids who came from the public school system. It scared me to think that I would be leaving a school to be in a more positive environment only to find another negative experience. It was even harder when people from my old school learned that I would possibly be moving to a private school. Some criticized me for my decision to attend private school because of certain preconceived notions they had formulated regarding private school life and students (of course, I would come to find out later that all of those notions were complete “bunk”). In short, I was caught in the middle. This made me nervous, to say the least, and I feared the worst.

I toured several schools that year and enjoyed most of them. The day would soon come when I would tour the last school that we were considering: The Donoho School.  Unlike other private schools my family and I toured, Donoho allowed me to actually shadow a student for an entire school day. This provided an outstanding glimpse into what life could be like as a Donoho student. To say that I was anxious would be a tremendous understatement; I was severely tense. As the day went on, however, the students at Donoho dispelled all of the aforementioned notions pertaining to private school life. There was no judging or mocking me. Instead, they made me feel welcome and showed genuine interest in getting to know me better; I truly felt like I had belonged there.

When the 2016-2017 school year came to an end, I knew my decision was to go to Donoho. Now, my only challenge would be adjusting to such a big change. It was obvious that I would be going to a school that was much smaller in size and attendance compared to what I had been used to. There were plenty of other things that would take time to adjust to, like the different style of education and the geographic distance between my home and the campus. And, like every other school move, the hardest thing would be adjusting to all the new faces and finding a sense of belonging. 

In the end, it was one of the best decisions my family and I have ever made. Since my first day at The Donoho School, I have met people and encountered experiences that have changed my life.  I can say now, though, as a senior in my fifth year at Donoho, that I managed just fine. I am so glad I found my place here, and I know if given a choice, I would not want to be anywhere else.