High School in a Nutshell


High School can be a scary thing. Some people say it was the best years of their young lives, while others had an entirely different experience. High school is a time to discover yourself, your likes, dislikes, and so much more. 

Many people start their freshmen year with big expectations and little to no worries; I was one of those people. My years in high school were not all that bad; they were just different from what I had expected. I was looking forward to the endless sleepovers and the effortless funny classes I would be put in. I was looking forward to the after-school hangouts and all the fun projects I could’ve worked on with my classmates.

It just didn’t play out the way I thought it would. My freshman year was going great, and I made so many friends. The first semester was good; I was excited. Then, we went on spring break and never came back. When I heard that spring break was extended for another two weeks, I was so excited because that had never happened before in middle school. 

Two weeks passed. That’s when Imagine Prep announced that classes will resume, but virtually on Zoom. I started to hear about the precautions the nation had to take for the next few months. I remember those days very well. I never really attended the online Zoom calls and figured I could just do the work without being on the call. If I had any questions, I would email the teachers. Every morning I would get coffee with my mom and siblings by riding our bikes to ‘Spencer’s Place.’ I would always work on my notes in the backyard and watch a show simultaneously. Mrs. Camren took photos of her notes, and we, as students, had to study and write the same things down in our composition notebooks. 

The rest of my freshman year went by quickly, nothing too crazy. I just took the tests and wrote down the notes that were needed. I often communicated with the teachers about my questions so they knew that I was participating in their class; I hope. Summer went by as fast as the second semester. 

My sophomore year started the same, but I attended the live classes this time. I would wake up every day around 7:10 am to get on my physics class in my pajamas (Who wouldn’t?). In between classes, I would watch shows or work on other things for other classes. In October, I started attending hybrid school that Imagine Prep offered. We had to check our temperatures every morning when we entered the building. The school was also decked out with plastic dividers to separate each student from each other. Everyone was also required to wear masks. It all feels like a vivid dream. There were so many precautions and everyone seemed so different since the last time I was at the school. 

At some point during the day, we got outside breaks to take off the masks for about 15 minutes. We would all just talk and relax, then resume normal school afterward. After winter break, I didn’t continue going to hybrid school. It was stressful to enter and leave school, and overall, it was just distracting. I liked online school better than hybrid, so I stayed home with my siblings. This was also when my family from Las Vegas would come over and vice versa. We always found ways to keep each other company during the pandemic. I was also babysitting a lot, so I would be on a Zoom call while riding my bike to the family I was supposed to babysit for. Although there were endless calls for my sophomore year, I hung out with my friends a lot in between and after the calls. My family and I also traveled a lot, so there was never a dull moment. 

In the summer, I started college classes through Rio Salado. Co-enrolling in college classes allowed me to get a head start, even though I was still unsure of what I wanted to do. I had time and didn’t need to give it too much thought. 

My junior year was my actual first year of high school, if that makes sense? At the beginning of the year, many people, including myself, still wore masks. However, we didn’t have to take our temperatures anymore. I made a lot of friends with the seniors and some in my grade as well. I also rejoined the cheer team after taking a break from the previous year. Junior year was full of fun, laughter, and lively moments. I worked hard for my grades and enjoyed my time with my friends. 

Cheer was fun! It got me out of my shell and helped me become more fit. I met many people through the team and became very strong, physically and emotionally. As the year went on, I lost most of my friends, but I also made new ones; it was like a never-ending cycle. I worked hard for my friendships, for my school work, and for the connections I had with my teachers. We competed in cheer competitions for the whole year, and I learned new skills that could help me for the next season.

I also got a car which made it so much easier for me to get to school and back. That was probably the highlight of my year. My college classes were going alright; by this time, I had about 20 college credits. I took two to three classes at a time and decided to take classes more toward the business aspects.

When that summer ended, it hit me that I was already a senior, but I’d only had one year of high school. How can it already be over?

I had no idea or plan for what I wanted to do after senior year. Did I have to have it all figured out already? I thought I had more time and opportunities, but I didn’t. 

I joined the cheer team again, but it felt way different than last year. The athletes and even the coaches were different. Most of my friends from last year were seniors, so the fact that they weren’t there this time around made me feel a little lonely. I felt so lost on what I wanted to do for college and even what I wanted to do for myself this year.

I’ve had previous years of experience in Student Council during my freshman and middle school years. The rest of high school was bumpy and I didn’t even know how to join it in virtual learning. I decided to run for Student Council President to become more involved with the students at the school. I wanted to be a role model for the underclassmen and even for my classmates. I did end up getting the title as the President, I was as excited as ever. I dedicated so much of my time to the Student Council team; it was a lot of fun!

I applied to ASU for college, and that was it. I had no idea where else to go or what to do. I just continued taking college classes through Rio Salado and hoped I would figure it out another day. Luckily, I had so much support from my Mom, family, and even the teachers at Imagine Prep to get me through these confusing times. I truly am grateful for their wisdom and guidance. 

In mid-October, I got called to Mr. McComb’s office to participate in a meeting with Mr. McComb, Mrs. Mecca, Mr. Andree, who moved from Imagine Prep to work at Ottawa University, and Brian Sandusky, who is the Chief Enrollment Officer at Ottawa. We talked about the spirit life days that occur every Wednesday at Ottawa and some alterations that could be made to benefit the students. The meeting wasn’t long, and we all got familiar with each other. It wasn’t until Mr. Andree gave me an Ottawa University T-shirt that I decided I should apply there and give it a try.  

That same day, I applied. The application was easy, asking me questions about my interests in college. I selected to major in business and to participate in the Leadership program. I love team management and the communication skills that go with it, so the leadership program would be a cool thing to participate in! The next day I received a call; the woman told me that I can get an amazing scholarship and so many opportunities with the programs I selected. I was so surprised because I had applied to ASU months ago, and still no word, but as soon as I applied to Ottawa, they contacted me within the next day.

Before winter break, I visited Ottawa University. Mr. Sandusky and Doug Doran (The Leadership Program Director) told me they were building a Pathway Program. The Pathway Program gives students like me an opportunity to earn their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business and Administration in only four years. I had selected all the right things on the application for this program without even knowing. This was their first year implementing the program, so I was the first student. Mr. Doran gave my mom and me a tour of the campus. Although there were all these great things, I was still on the fence. I wanted to wait to see if I would hear anything back from ASU. I waited and gave it time before I decided on my future in college. 

As far as cheer goes, my team had qualified for Nationals! This was a very big thing for Imagine Prep because this was the first year we had ever competed and qualified. We all fundraised and practiced for the next few months before heading for Anaheim, California. Cheer has given me so many traits that are so useful for my future. It has taught me how to be patient and communicate with others. Cheer has made me strong and showed me how to work with a team. It made me happy when all other things seemed to be confusing. I would not take a second of it back. I had learned so much from my experiences in this sport. By the end of February of 2023, we traveled to California and competed. We didn’t win, but we were happy to be there regardless. I was happy to be a part of it with my team members. We spent the next few days in California Adventure and Disney Land. We all had matching hoodies, which was fun! We all shared so many laughs and experiences throughout this school year. Cheer made it all worth it. It was hard to say goodbye to the only team who made me feel like I was a part of something meaningful. 

Now, throughout all of this craziness and decision-making, I was a part of the yearbook committee. One of my biggest regrets in high school was that I didn’t join it sooner. Throughout this year, I met many of my peers and the lower classmen through interviews for the yearbook. I made spreads that are very important for the students to keep their memories alive. The yearbook class made a big impact on my year by connecting with more people at Imagine Prep. Everyone in that class had worked so hard to make it the best that it could be. We have all grown so much in different ways with much trial and error. Mrs. Gunderson also worked hard to advise and connect with each student in that class. Thank you. 

Along the way, and several college campus tours across Arizona, I decided to attend Ottawa for the next fall semester and join the pathway program. I was so happy to be given the opportunity. I am extremely grateful for the people who have helped me make this possible. Without the support from numerous people, I have no idea where I would have ended up. 

With the end of the year creeping up, there were so many loose ends. What should I do next? I still don’t have an answer to that, but that’s okay. I know that everything will work out in their time. 

This year has been crazy, but that makes it all the more worth it – and I can’t wait to see what next year holds.

I know everyone’s experiences are different. I truly believe in having a positive experience in high school; we must focus on our growth and supporting others. Here are the principles that I personally embedded into my every day, mostly during my senior year:  

  • Get in the habit of studying. There are so many ways to study and hacks to memorize things easily. If you put in the work and the effort, you will be acknowledged and set for greater things.
  • Make positive relationships. Don’t be with someone that constantly brings you down – This could be a friend, a significant other, a teacher, even. You will become happier if you conversate with someone that you enjoy talking to.
  • Never settle for less. Always strive to do your best, work for what you want and deserve. Don’t put limitations on your capabilities.
  • Stay active and care for yourself. Getting enough sleep and drinking enough water can go a long way. It can impact your decision-making and mood immensely. Listen to your body.
  • Keep trying and do your best. Don’t do things halfway. It takes more work to do things halfway and not try rather than just doing the best you can. There’s a difference, and it’s important to recognize it.

Simple things can make or break your day. Try, just try. High school doesn’t have to be complicated if you don’t make it. Everything depends on the outlook and how you perceive certain situations. 

I still have so much to learn and so much to grow on. My years in high school have taught me so much about myself and the people around me. 

From freshman year to now, I don’t feel like I’ve changed in many ways. I have grown from the experiences I’ve had and the decisions I’ve made thus far. 

Thank you, Mrs. Baker, for helping me grow as a person and a writer throughout high school. I will use the skills I learned from you to grow in college.

Thank you to my family for the endless support you have shown me, especially throughout my senior year. You guys have helped guide me and given me the opportunities that I would have never dreamed of. I appreciate you.

Thank you to the students and the staff at Imagine Prep for rooting for me from the sidelines. I have spent my whole life in Imagine Schools. It’s truly an honor to be a graduate of the school that has stuck with me and helped me grow in ways I could have never imagined. 

Thank you to Mr. Andree, Mr. Sandusky, and Mr. Doran from Ottawa University for giving me this opportunity to pursue the business field and helping me expand my knowledge and talents. I will see you this fall.


Cassidy Shaffer