Life Skills I Learned Attending a Same-Sex High School and Why It Was the Best Decision of My Life
I didn't really have one specific reason for choosing my high school. Sure, my uncle had gone there, but there was no family legacy. On top of that, my closest friends at the time had all decided to go to a different Catholic high school in the city. However, I knew that the high school I was leaning toward had a much better reputation, specifically for academics. On the plus side, some of my classmates were going there; my shy and awkward 8th grade self would at least see a few familiar faces.
My four years at Creighton Prep came and went in what now seems like the blink of an eye. Throughout my time there, I matured more as a man than I ever thought possible.
Man For Others
Being a man for others was the most important thing that I learned while at Prep. The phrase “man for others” was coined by Fr. Pedro Arrupe and can be explained as a love for your neighbors, especially those less fortunate than you, and taking action to create a more just society.
The first part of being a man for others involves doing service work. Having the opportunity—and sometimes being required—to do service work helped me realize what was truly important in life. Never before had my eyes been so opened. Throughout those four years, I raked leaves for elders, tutored elementary school children after school, helped move furniture into a house for refugees, and even walked door to door delivering meals to those who could not afford food. Service work has made me a more caring man, made me more aware to numerous problems and issues that our society faces, and has given me a different perspective on life.
Be A Gentleman
The next characteristic of being a man for others is being a gentleman. My experiences at Creighton Prep taught me to be a gentleman, in every sense of the word. First, I learned how to show respect to others. Respect was something that the school instilled within all of its students. You learned to not interrupt others while they were speaking, to help clean up after events without being asked, to stop what you were doing to walk a visitor to the front office, to share your book with a classmate who had forgotten his, to be open and accepting of all sorts of people…the list is genuinely too long to name all of the examples.
Being a gentleman goes beyond simply being courteous, but also extends to treating women properly. High school was the first time that I ever had the opportunity to bring a date to a dance. We learned to take our dates to a nice dinner, pay for their meal, open doors for them, buy them a corsage, dance with them (while leaving space for the holy spirit) and, much to our reluctance, take pictures with them. Guys will be guys, but we were encouraged to filter/censor our language around girls.
Continuing with the topic of girls, I can’t tell you how many times I heard/was asked something similar to the following: “So how do dances work? Do you all just like dance with each other?” Believe it or not, my same-sex high school actually helped me learn how to talk to girls. Since we couldn’t be partnered with a cute girl for a group project or show off for the ladies in gym class, we were practically forced to go up and talk to girls at dances and parties if we wanted any sort of relationship with a girl.
Your #1 Fan
Your mother is the most important woman in your life. Prep instilled in the importance of being grateful to your parents for all that they do, especially in my case, where my mother put herself through great financial hardship, just for me to be able to remain in school after her divorce. One thing that the school had that specifically focused on gratitude towards our mothers was Mom Prom. At this event, our mothers were our dates. We took them out for a night to eat, dance, and laugh together at how strange the whole idea was. It was a time for our mothers to see us with our friends, meet those young men, and be introduced to other moms. Parents were also included in certain aspects of our school.
Creighton Prep also taught me how to dress. I am ashamed to look through pictures from junior high school and see myself wearing a hoodie with sweatpants, a backwards skater hat, and tennis shoes everywhere I went. In high school, we had a specific dress code that we all had to follow. We needed to dress business casual and show up to school with a nice haircut and a clean shave. Prep kids dressed—you guessed it—“preppy”. Even now, three years out of high school, I find myself dressing this way.
It is said that the way you dress influences how you feel. If you dress up, you feel more confident. Confidence is another characteristic that I learned in high school. High school definitely helped me become more confident. I learned my self-worth, I learned that I was great at certain things, and I learned to accept that I was bad at other things. Most importantly, however, I learned that if set my mind to something and worked hard, I could achieve it.
Cracking The Whip
I was taught self-discipline my first semester freshman year of high school. That was the first time that I had ever experienced a 12 hour day. Legitimately half of our freshman class joined the football team—there were no cuts for the B team. School started a 8:00am and went until 2:45pm, then you went down to the locker room to change and head to football practice, which lasted until 5. Then you’d go home, shower, and eat dinner. By that time it was about 6:15. Then, you got to start on your homework, which took two to four hours. You did this every day. This was your routine.
I’m not going to lie, freshman year at my high school kicked your ass! We lost about 25 students from our class because they had transferred to a different school during the first semester. If you didn’t learn anything from your classes that first semester, at the very least, you learned something infinitely more valuable: self-discipline. You were forced to not only do your homework but actually get it done on time, to attend class (to this day, the very thought of being able to just skip high school classes blows my mind), to manage your time better, and to give up some leisure time in order to get what you needed to get done. I’d be lying if I said that there was not an attitude of “work hard, play hard” amongst the student population, but we still all had our priorities straight and accomplished what we needed to do before we let loose.
The final thing that I learned from Creighton Preparatory High School was a sense of brotherhood. Companionship amongst males is something indescribable. From the determination that could be felt on the field when playing in games myself to being a part of the intimidating mass of testosterone that was our student section, there was a sense of energy that flooded through all of us young men when we were together. This comradery extended beyond just sports. We also found happiness and solace when doing service work together, hanging out with our big bros, attending pep rallies, mass, and retreats. In fact, one of my most powerful memories was at our freshman retreat, where out entire class got up to console one of our brothers who had just shared with us a difficult situation he was facing at home.
The knowledge and traits I learned from Creighton Prep are branded into my personality. The qualities I learned back in high school have influenced many decisions that I have made, including joining a fraternity and moving back to my hometown. The core values that Fr. Pedro Arrupe established have stuck with me and helped me improve the lives of many.
© 2017 Colin Wattonville