By Indian Hill High School Student Experience Journalist Vandita Rastogi
In the faint distance, I hear my parents whisper. Leaning in closer, the words “moving away” echo back, and I know there is yet another city to call home. Moving has always been difficult, and this time was no different. In fact, it was much harder. Living in Chicago for over five years, I grew close with the classmates who I went on camping trips with, the neighbors I ran through sprinklers with ... the childlike whims of owning my first pet fish or losing my first tooth would be dusted behind in my old bedroom.
Entering the sixth grade, I was terrified. Everyone seemed to have formed their own groups, and navigating through the endless maze of a middle school only elevated my fears. In the midst of these worries, I fondly remember Mr. Dunlap and Mrs. Cook had a small competition on who could learn to pronounce my name correctly the fastest. Sra. Stidham and Sra. Morris patiently taught me Spanish, as I struggled with basic grammar the others had learned in elementary school. The pains my teachers went through to graciously welcome me shifted into an ingrained excellence I sought in all my classwork from then on. I met friends, like Emily Sichel, and teachers, like Mr. Bell and Mrs. Dean, who challenged me to think critically and pushed a poetic side out of me that I didn’t know I had. Their continuous support allowed me to take pride in my own work.
Perhaps the most unique attribute of Indian Hill is that in the small-school atmosphere even the principal and superintendent know your name. The 600 people that encompass our high school are like a family. Passing each other in the hall, I’m able to wave to almost anyone and greet them by their name. Further, the nature of the school provides an avenue for self-growth.
The values of compassion and empathy instilled in me by this community have fueled a passion for community service. From volunteering at nursing homes, to tutoring under-resourced refugees, to providing internet for local schools, leading SMILE Club has, and always will be, close to my heart. Founding it in my sophomore year, service has been a cathartic experience, in which not only do those we help benefit, but so do we. Our club has found happiness in the work we do, and through it, we have become better people with a broader respect for our community.
I’ve also learned to overcome my fears — from participating in my first theatre experience with Hello Dolly! my senior year, to finally making it to the middle of the dance floor at prom, I felt supported by my teachers and peers to try new activities.
It all seems a little bittersweet. In less than a week I will be just another alum of this school. Each year that I have been here, I have formed a tighter bond with the community around me, something 10-year old me in Chicago could have never imagined. From the first day I stepped in, to our last week, it has been a rollercoaster ride of memories and now I must say goodbye. But, the pillars of excellence, pride, leadership, service, and respect, fused with values such as compassion and empathy that these last seven years have instilled in me ... those will carry with me throughout life, and that is the legacy of Indian Hill.
Once a Brave, always a Brave.
Photo caption: Vandita Rastogi with friends at prom.