“At the University of Arkansas, every other student I meet is from the Dallas area. Their phone numbers have the same area code as mine. We gripe about the construction on I-35 and how last Christmas Eve it was hot enough to wear shorts. Then the inevitable “Where did you go to high school?” question comes up. I always laugh before answering. “Founders Classical Academy,” I say, and I see the blank look in their eyes. They have no idea what that is; they don’t even know if it’s a real school. I go through the process of explaining a charter school: yes we wear uniforms; no it’s not a boarding school; yes it’s free. I usually end by saying “We study Latin,” which receives a response somewhere in between shock and fear.
I had a very unique high school experience, and one of my joys is trying to convey it to the people around me. Founders Classical Academy is like this little secret life I have tucked away. I only graduated with around twenty students, so not many people can empathize with my small-school education. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. Somewhere along the way, the things I learned and the world I encountered became a core part of my person. For four years, my teachers pushed me to dig deeper than the textbook and find truth in my studies. We weren’t just having discussions about Dostoevsky and Conrad; we were uncovering human nature and the dichotomy that exists within us.
My English teachers taught me how to approach texts with passion. My science teachers showed me the natural balance of the world. My math teachers explained how to make sense of things that appear too difficult. My peers demonstrated that diligence and determination yields results. The senior-year trip to Italy helped me fall in love with sculptures and being alive. More so, I kindled individual relationships with each of my instructors that traveled beyond the classroom. I text them; I like their Facebook statuses; I have them on Snapchat and comment on their Instagram pictures. They hugged me when life got tough, prayed for me when I didn’t even ask, and they always gave me the best advice. Some of them cried when I took my diploma, and they all radiated pride. They weren’t just teachers—they were a support system that truly wished to see me grow and succeed. Many of them are my friends, even now.
These men and women built Founders Classical Academy from the ground up. From the beginning, they prepared us for what comes after high school. The ability to think for myself, determine the truth of something, discipline myself, set goals and find a path to achieve them. These are all skills I was learning, and I didn’t realize it until I sat down in my first lecture class of 200 people. The two boys I sit next to in American National Government absentmindedly scribble the PowerPoint down. I strain my wrist to get every sliver of information into my notebook, and strain my mind to consider that information on a deeper level. Why would the government be constructed in such a way? What does equality truly mean? Are all freedoms good? This is the hallmark of a Founders student: complicating simple things out of habit. We all do it. I remember a teacher once told us to stop overthinking and we all shouted “We can’t!”
Our minds were trained to approach the world in a way quite different than the rest of our generation. Classes like Moral Philosophy and Rhetoric equipped us to make important decisions as independent adults. The staff of Founders Classical Academy said they were prepping us for college. I would say they prepped us for life. Underneath the meticulous rules, uniform regulations, Latin competitions, poetry recitations and senior theses, we were learning how to interact with the world as mature, free-thinking intellectuals. I know how to respect my superiors, understand my Constitutional rights, detect injustice, and carry myself with dignity.
My plans for the future are up in the air right now. I’m a college freshman completing general courses that can apply to any major I choose. I have the world at my fingertips right now, and I am confident that the training I received at Founders will assist me as I move forward. I wouldn’t go back in time and do it again. I am becoming and achieving and growing in a way I couldn’t in high school. But looking back, I am grateful for every late night (or very early morning) study session and impossible physics equation. I am grateful to have been challenged. Every struggle I underwent was building me in a way I couldn’t see until now.”
Rylie Frederick graduated from Founders Classical Academy in Lewisville.