Senior Goodbye: To Those Who Bettered Me Along the Way

Rian Cameron, OwlFeed Opinion Editor

When I think back on my first experience at Agua Fria, my mind doesn’t switch to the first day of school or even Freshman Day. Instead, it takes me back further into early August of 2016 as summer was frittering away into anxiety over beginning the school year all over again. Somewhere within there came my registration day. 

I believe it was the last day of registration when I had walked into this foreign campus feeling already that my social fears were going to turn high school into something just as dreadful as middle school. But sitting there awkwardly with my mom, something unexpected happened that turned the whole course of the next four years of my life around.

Lauren Mitchell walked over to where I was sitting and introduced herself, stealing a seat by my side with absolutely no invitation. 

Lauren became my PE partner, Wednesday lunch buddy and friend all in one year. And for years to come, she accompanied me to school dances, late night shenanigans and drives out into nowhere. She is, in short, the friend that I can’t quit. 

Chloe Dube was an old friend from eighth grade who I was lucky enough to have in my Honors Biology class freshman year. We became so close that year that we mothered a mouse together. And although she didn’t attend AFHS sophomore and junior year, I am proud to say that when she returned senior year our friendship was as strong as ever. 

In the second semester of my freshman year, I took choir as my one and only elective (the other space was reserved for mein Deutsch lernen). It allowed me to reconnect with Brooklyn and Kristen Stutler and Tanner Melillo, all of whom were a part of the Wigwam Jaguar Choir just as I had been. 

Kristen and Brooklyn I consider friends for life. We rarely had classes or lunch together throughout high school, but we always made time for each other. They enriched my days in Choir and thankfully made it fun enough to make me want to pursue it sophomore year.  

Tanner Melillo and I were frequent text buddies. This may not seem significant to others but it was to me. As an underclassman he was always the first I’d turn to and the last I’d turn from. I trust his honesty more now than most people I’ve had in my life.

Had I not met these three people, I may have dropped a class that has since produced some of my fondest memories from Agua Fria. This is because sophomore year, Mr. Garcia took over. Under his direction, I was able to learn some painful lessons about leadership that I would come out of stronger and more sure of myself. 

As the Alto Section Leader and later on Choir Club President, I met incredible people from all different grades and walks of life. I remember each and every one as an integral part of my choir experience. Choir prepared me to be bolder. I was forced to publically speak so often that eventually I began to not only get used to it but to genuinely enjoy it. 

Photo credit: Rian Cameron

After a year of having me in choir, Mr. Garcia invited me to join band. I thought I had no role to play in it since my only musical intelligence seems to come from the piano. Luckily, I went to observe it anyway and tried my hand with a flag. Brooklyn, Kristen and I were most likely motivated to join by apathy at best. 

In spite of this, the Agua Fria Color Guard has gone on to shape me as a person. It cleared me of my performance anxiety and introduced me to dancing despite years of being made fun of for lacking the same skill. I spent my last remaining years of high school traveling and screwing around with some truly great people from band. Among them, I’d like to shout out Anaya Sanford from my junior year Color Guard team and Darren Tudor, the Drum Major. They were the people who really made it worthwhile for me. 

Every year was chock-full of little victories for me. Freshman year, I made some of my first lasting friendships. Sophomore year I landed my first leadership role, took my first AP class, and made my first real teacher connections. But junior year signified a turning point for me. It was the year I really began to love this school. I began to participate in school events and spirit weeks. I would vouch for this school tooth and nail to my brother day after day trying to convince him to attend.

Senior year has been the greatest thing that has happened to me, even though it was cut a bit short. One of my most significant memories in it was the daily musical rehearsals. Freshman year I remembered those feeling excessive and difficult. Come senior year, it was a completely different experience. 

This may be because it bred my one of the closest friendships in an extremely short time period. Amber Chico has done more than make frequent appearances in my rare free time. She has made me want to be a better person. When she leaves an impression on somebody, it is deep and permanent. At least in my case. 

She was there with me the past six months through good times and bad. She is the head chef to my sous, the calm to my drama, the cardiac to my arrest.

Lastly, I owe a special mention to the girl who stuck by my side throughout all of high school. We did everything together, from binge Netflix comedies to dance in the rain. We seem to have everything in common and then again nothing at all. She made the times I loathed the most more than tolerable and the sweet moments sweeter. Darian Hodges was my best friend for four years and I can’t thank her enough for the long drives, the many many haircuts, experimental eats, inside jokes and more. 

Senior year also introduced me to journalism. It was a skill I hadn’t expected to bring out so much in me. As Opinion Editor, I was forced to better my grammar for the sake of my section, to write creatively more within the first two weeks of class than I had within the entirety of my lifetime and to engage more with my peers than in any other class (discounting choir of course). 

Mr. Jovanelly has been a true inspiration in my writing life. He took a chance on me last semester and made me Opinion Editor in spite of me having zero prior experience. He and his class encouraged me to write with passion and not just to supplement my academic merit. 

Thanks to journalism, I finally feel ready to fully immerse myself in writing. I have been afraid for too long of having nothing to write about. Now I am spending my free time during this shutdown writing not only for journalism, APs and English classes but also creatively and for joy. 

There are a few teachers I owe a lot of gratitude to that I couldn’t fit within the normal flow of this story, but they must be included. 

Mr. Martin, thank you for making a subject I have never cared for in the past one of my most memorable. You were my first AP and you made me confident that it was something I wanted to pursue as an upperclassman. 

Thank you, Ms. Miller, for making me a better writer and more confident within that skill as well. I thoroughly enjoyed every excerpt we read and every essay we wrote. 

Thank you Ms. Secor for having confidence in me even when I didn’t. You made me believe that much that had seemed beyond me was within my reach. 

Thank you Mr. Fox for always being there, reading my stories, and attending production after production from AF’s Theatre. 

This goes without saying, but thank you, Mr. Garcia, for teaching me leadership and how to step outside of my comfort zone. Thank you for all the guidance you have given me regarding high school, college and beyond. 

When I first came into Agua Fria High School straight out of Wigwam, I had zero intention of applying myself. I even attempted to drop my honors algebra class at registration. But since then, I have found solace in a challenge. In arts, academics and athletics alike.

This school and the many people I have met within its walls has shaped me beyond recognition. And yes, I may have innumerable regrets and embarrassments. But, like Frank Sinatra once said, there were far “too few to mention.” 

I know that when I look back on these years, I won’t see the slip-ups, I will see the growth and the eventual victory come graduation day.