We sat around a table in my office, an office that has belonged to San Dieguito principals since 1937, and talked about burying a time capsule that would be opened in 2068. Fresh faced and energetic, the students at the table will be in their sixties when the airtight container is opened next; I’ll be dead.
Time is funny and time capsules are funnier still. What will the class of 2068 think of our quaint life in the year 2017? Will the flash drive we tuck into the time capsule puzzle them as a slide rule would today’s students? Can we know the water will stay out and leave our buried treasures intact?
Our discussion was a delight. Spending time with thoughtful teenagers is a pleasure and a privilege I enjoy as a high school principal. And after we talked about the articles and artifacts they wanted to bury for their grandchildren it struck me that for the final interview for my sketch of San Dieguito’s eightieth anniversary I could do no better than to talk with this group of students that my marvelous assistant, Lois, referred to affectionately as “The Time Capsule Crowd.”
So we talked.
We talked about life at San Dieguito in the year 2017, the experiences that meant the most, the places that were the dearest, and what it really meant to “Keep SDA Funky.”
Three freshmen were at the table, Bella, Martina, and Saylor, each from a different middle school and each with their own story of why San Dieguito was their school. Jack, a sophomore, spoke to his own transition from the comfort of middle school through the anxiety of coming to high school, and finally how he’d found his own voice at SDA. And at the head of the table, Stephanie, a passionate senior, held court with memories that ranged from her shy freshman year to her outspoken final year at San Dieguito.
Much of our talk circled around what makes San Dieguito the place it is today. “You can be yourself at SDA,” Saylor noticed. “You can really do anything,” Martina added. Stephanie, the elder statesman, explained “I feel good to be here because no one is going to judge me. It’s a place where there are lots of people to look up to. It makes me want to be my best.”
I asked the group when they stopped looking up to others and felt like they were the ones others were looking up to.
“When you find your style,” Jack answered. “It just happens. You aren’t consciously aware of it.” The other students nodded, the freshmen smiling.
“Are you optimistic?” I asked. They looked at me like I was from outer space. Of course, those looks answered. “Why?” I followed up.
“Because you can be yourself,” Saylor answered.
“And you can do anything here,” Martina added.
“In middle school,” Bella explained, “we read The Outsiders and our teacher had us do a map of campus to indicate where the different groups hang out, you know, the popular kids here, the sporty kids there. That would never work at SDA. There aren’t the same kinds of groups.”
“Everybody is just open,” Stephanie added. The table nodded.
That freedom to be who you are, and that understanding that for students that who may change many times over the four years of high school, is a core value of San Dieguito.
“SDA is like a Michael Jackson music video,” Stephanie offered with a smile. “Everybody looks different, but the come together to dance, and then at the end they each walk away in their own direction.”
That ability for each of our students to have a safe community from which to chart their own path is an important part of what makes San Dieguito the school it is. As our ninth graders told me:
“Just be yourself.”
“Don’t overthink it.”
“People are nice here. It will be okay.”
We ended our conversation with a nod toward that familiar refrain: “Keep SDA Funky.” I asked them what they thought “funky” meant at SDA.
Their answers, delivered with the gentle smiles adolescents bestow upon their parents and fellows my age who ask silly questions, ranged from “freedom” to “being ourselves.” Jack added “There’s no pressure to be funky at SDA. You can just be yourself.” He gestured to his t-shirt and jeans; not everyone dresses in a Pikachu costume; they just know they can and it wouldn’t be judged as odd. “We don’t have to be different,” he said. “We can just be us.”
I look forward to seeing these amazing students continue to grow, graduate, and move into a world beyond our campus. The spirit they bring to San Dieguito, a spirit I have no doubt they will bring to life after graduation, gives me hope that the world is in great hands. Our kids. Our future.