As I neared the end of the fall semester and began debating what classes I should take as a second semester senior, I was faced with a dilemma. On one hand, I wanted to fully embrace in being what I thought was a second semester senior, which included taking more “chill” classes. On the other hand, I wanted to explore my interests in languages more before I left high school. Having been in such passionate and exciting french classes throughout high school, my interest for languages began to grow and I knew it was something I would want to continue studying in college. After much debate, I decided to explore my interest in Spanish. Although the class is was a year-long class, the teachers saw my passion and dedication to explore this topic and allowed me to join a Spanish I class. They gave me the resources to stay on track and graciously helped me catch up on the course during one-on-one meetings. Now, it is one of my favorite classes. Through this experience, I have learned that being a second semester senior means making the most of your time left in high school and UHS gave me the opportunity to do just that.
Over the past 3 ½ years of attending UHS, I’ve seemed to only have one constant in my life: Six class periods. Since my first semester of Freshman year, I have been involved with jazz at UHS, whether through the jazz combo or jazz ensemble. Taking jazz at UHS has been an incredible experience and I don’t regret a moment of it, but there is just one drawback. Since jazz is an elective art program, it takes up a 6th class period on top of all the other required courses I have to take. So as I listened to my friends in Sophomore and Junior year praising their free periods I could not relate. I simply never knew life at UHS without 6 classes.
But this semester, my final one at UHS, things finally changed. I was able to replace an academic class slot with my Senior Project, a collection of 5-7 short stories that I am hoping to complete under the guidance of my former English teacher Scott by the end of the semester. The project, however, is not a scheduled class, so I do not have to meet during a designated period in the schedule, and I have finally, just as the sun is setting on my high school career, gotten a free period.
We are now about two weeks into the new semester, and I am still working out the nuances of having three blocks of time a week where I can pretty much do what I want. I’m sure though that it is a freedom I will not take for granted, an appreciation that the past 3 ½ of 6 periods has given me.
As a solo pianist, I’d played piano for 11 years, but I’d never played in an ensemble before coming to UHS. My practice had always been focused on individual performance and I hadn’t ever considered joining a musical group. When I got admitted to UHS, I decided more or less on a whim to audition for the UHS Chamber Orchestra. I remember feeling incredibly nervous as I waited outside of the music room, sheet music in hand, waiting for my name to be called. The audition itself went by in a blur, but I remember feeling both excited and apprehensive when I learned that I would be joining rehearsals during the coming fall semester.
The learning curve was steep, I’ll admit. A large part of playing in an ensemble is listening to the other instruments to maintain balance, while also making sure that your own particular melody line stands out. You have to learn how to collaborate with other musicians while also honing your technique to add to the overall sound of the group. I was quickly grasping how to follow a conductor and how to properly mark my music to match their movements, skills that I’d never included in my musicianship before. I also had to learn how to look at the bigger picture of a piece, as opposed to solely focusing on my personal part. But the warm and encouraging environment of the music room quickly fostered this new musical knowledge in me and sparked a new drive to take risks with my music. I found myself itching to go to rehearsal and practicing even more frequently, because I now knew how rewarding the results of larger group of musicians working together could be.
Four years later, the orchestra is central part to my UHS experience and has helped me grow so much as both a musician and a person. The confidence I’ve gained through stretching myself to a different kind of performance has allowed me to become a more bold and positive person in other aspects of my life. It’s astounding how much my musicianship has improved during my time at, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to push myself to such great limits had I not joined the orchestra. As the orchestra teaching assistant this year, I’ve started learning conducting from our conductor outside of rehearsal, something I’d never considered doing! The Chamber Orchestra has been an amazing learning and empowering experience for me, and I’m so grateful that it’s been such a large part of my time at UHS.
As a second-semester senior, my experience at UHS is, and with great sadness, coming to a close. With only one semester left, I wanted to take full advantage of some of the incredible courses on offer and explore an area I hadn’t previously focused on. This led me to discover a unique class: Industrial Design. This course focuses on learning through hands-on projects and demonstrations. What is so special about this class is that it takes place in the new U-Lab, containing resources such as saws, a 3D printer, a laser cutter, and various power tools (very exciting!).
The goal of this course is to investigate the process behind the design of various structures, which will eventually lead to producing our own work and designs. I am looking forward to both designing and constructing my own creations throughout the next few months. I am also looking forward to thinking more deeply about the design process behind products from known companies such as Apple or Google, and how aesthetic form translates affects functionality and the consumeristic market.
I think this class is truly indicative of the vast range of courses UHS offers. I am so excited to be in a class where I can not only think critically (both mathematically and scientifically) but also access my artistic side to create tangible projects.
It was the end of sophomore year and I had no idea which science class I wanted to take. I thought that it might be interesting to take a course which was very hands on— where the focus was on labs and practical information. I decided to take Human Physiology, and I did not regret it.
We began the year with a unit on various tissues in the human body, and I soon realized that this was like no other class that I had ever taken. The teacher was engaging and the labs were unique and clearly applicable to my life. Some of my favorite labs were ones were we measured the electric signals being sent from our cardiac pacemaker cells using electrodes and found the volume of air that we breathe in and out of our lungs with a spirometer. Our most recent lab was a rabbit dissection where we were responsible for exploring every organ and system that we had studied in the class. I thought the complexity of the organism was really fascinating. I would have never thought that I would have the opportunity to do such a complicated dissection in high school when I was in middle school.
Our last project of the year was to chose a system of the body which we had not studied as a class and research it, then present to the class. I chose the integumentary system or the skin, which has long been an interest of mine. I really saw how the design of the school allows for individual interests to be applied to a classroom setting. Throughout my experience in the science department at UHS I have been so grateful that I attend a school which provides me with so many opportunities to learn about and pursue my passions.
Throughout my three years at UHS, something that has remained constant for me is tennis. Before University, I had never really thought of tennis as a team sport; I thought it was played individually. Little did I realize I would come to enjoy playing tennis with my teammates far more than I would alone.
Going into the tennis season as a freshman was a bit daunting, but during the first couple of weeks of the season we had a team overnight trip to Fresno to play a tournament. We did pretty well in the tournament, but the trip was a great bonding experience. As a team, we would go out and eat all of our meals, and on Friday after three matches we went to a trampoline park. The trip was a great way to connect as a team and have a lot of fun.
By the end of the year we were in the league finals. We lost a very close match, 4-3, and we were quite disappointed. But the next year, my sophomore year, we came back with a fury, winning a big tournament and winning a record 22 games over the season. We also made it to our division finals, another first for the boys tennis program.
The experience of playing on a tennis team has been very exciting, and the bonds made while playing are emblematic of the entire UHS community. UHS sports are an experience that I will never forget, not only for the successes on the court, but also for the bonds made off of it.
Over the past two years, UHS has been experimenting with a variety of student-designed schedules. The UHS student body has heavily advocated for later starts so this year’s and last year’s schedules have always included multiple days with 9:00 am starts. Compared to my freshman year where school started at 8:00 am or my middle school at 8:15 am it seems that I have an eternity now before school starts. The question has always been what to do with this time? Do I sleep in? Wake up early? Go out and get breakfast? Or perhaps go on an early morning run at the beach?
The latter option was dreamed up by a friend of mine as we decided that by waking up early and using that hour of extra time we could bike to the beach, have an early morning run, grab some breakfast, and use the remaining late start time to get to school. Although this is a bit unorthodox, as UHS students heavily value their sleep and always love to get more, the experience was very gratifying.
The runs on the beach were not only scenic but the perfect time to reset and refresh for the upcoming day. After a run on the beach you may be a bit sandy and possibly smell like sea water but going and getting a nice warm breakfast burrito is particularly satisfying. I have really come to appreciate the flexible hour in the morning that University gives its students.