Jennifer Martin sat in the assembly at Riverside High School, on the first day of her senior year, waiting to be recognized as the student with the highest grade point average in her class. This ceremony was a tradition in her school where grades were very important. She had always excelled in school and was excited to begin her senior year getting credit for all her hard work and dedication over the past three years. As Riverside’s principal was giving the usual speech about how a “good student” should act, he then pointed to Jennifer as an example of how a “good student” should not act. The principal said, “Jennifer spends entirely too much time on her schoolwork, and doesn’t even participate in any sports. You should be ashamed of yourself.” He went on to say that schoolwork is no longer important at Riverside High and sports should now be everyone’s top priority.
After the assembly Jennifer went back to class feeling very angry and confused. How could this happen to her? She had worked so hard for nothing. Later that day a letter was given to all the students during homeroom that stated: If you are not in a sport you are unwanted in the school. The only reason it gave for the big change in the school’s policy was that Riverside high school needed more money.
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The school believed that if it had good volleyball, basketball and baseball teams; more people would come to the games to watch the award winning teams. Sporting events would bring in funds that were needed to run the school. The following week was terrible for Jennifer. The smart and respected girl from Riverside now became an outcast. When she walked down the hallway people would stare at her as though she were from a different planet. It was as though they had all been brainwashed.
Everyone who hadn’t been in a sport quickly joined one, including all of her friends. No one spoke out against the new school policy. From the outside, her school looked like any other school, focused on learning. On the inside it was quite different because everything revolved around sports. Now the only classes available were designed to help everyone perform better in sports. All Riverside’s funds were spent on sports.
The school built a new gym, improved the track so it was better than any in the state, and the bleachers and lights were replaced on the football field. The pomp on and cheerleading squads were enlarged to increase the fans’ involvement in the games. Some other activities were also seen as being unimportant because of the new school policy. Jennifer was once very involved in the drama department, but that was cut. She felt very uncomfortable in the school she had once loved to come to every morning.
Jennifer thought that if she got involved and stood up for what she believed was right more people would join her cause, but no one did. When graduation day crept closer Jennifer was happy that her final year of high school was almost over. When she discovered that the two top athletes would become valedictorian and salutatorian she felt this was an appropriate end to a horrible year. At the Riverside High School graduation ceremony she breathed a sigh of relief, the year was finally over. After the horrible year and summer, Jennifer went to college planning to become a lawyer. She tried to never look back at her senior year, but she could never forget the looks on her classmates’ faces every time she walked down the hallway.
She finally forgot about her high school experience when she became the valedictorian of her senior class in college. This story is not true, but it does sometimes feel that athletes get away with things that other students aren’t able to get away with. It states in the student handbook on page 44: athletes at Riverton High School can be failing three classes and continue to participate in school games. In some schools, athletes take simpler tests to pass a class when compared to the tests taken by the rest of the class. Athletes shouldn’t be treated any better or worse than anyone else in the school. It is unfortunate that a crowd will attend a sporting event, but no one is even aware of when a scholastic bowl competition is scheduled.
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It is unfair that bright students are sometimes overlooked. In this story, Jennifer was seen as being an outsider because academics were important to her. All students have abilities that should be recognized and valued.