By Kasey Huntress, senior, Lake Region High School
I’ve always been a big believer in school pride, and thus the changes that Lake Region High School went through after being identified as a “low-performing school” my freshman year were especially hard for me. I had chosen to attend Lake Region over a high school from a different district, and because of that, the bad press and insults surrounding our school following this identification angered me to no end. I had chosen to come to Lake Region because of the overwhelming sense of community and pride that I experienced every time I visited; the welcoming nature that made me feel as if this were the place that I belonged. Where was the press that exposed that side of our school?
It wasn’t long before the label and constant negativity that our school was receiving from the outside transferred to the inside. Walking down the halls or sitting at lunch, I often heard students criticizing our school, calling it a “joke,” and saying that nobody who graduated from Lake Region would go anywhere in life. It made me both furious and sad at the same time; furious that some were willing to just give up on our school, and sad that the place I had once seen full of pride and promise had lost it—all because of a few test scores.
The next few years were full of change and certainly not easy for everyone. Our school and vocational center underwent some major physical renovations, and to accompany that, our academic structure and curriculum also received some significant adjustments. The teachers and faculty created and implemented new academic periods called “academies” (growing from three academies my junior year to six this year), from which students could choose which they wanted to join. The academies would cover a variety of different subject areas that students would not normally be exposed to in regular classes, giving them the chance to experiment and direct their learning in accordance with their own interests.
At first, both the renovations and academic transformations were met with opposition. Students, staff, parents, and community members argued against the merits of every modification, trying to resist the change. In order to get over the atmosphere of negativity, to improve as a school and get what needed to be done accomplished, people were going to have to change their frame of mind. We needed to learn to make the best of the situation that Lake Region faced and use the opportunity to improve ourselves and our school. Thankfully, we did.
This past year has been the year of turnaround. As a senior, I’ve witnessed the opinions surrounding Lake Region High School change from the inside out. No longer do I walk the halls and hear people putting our school down. Students are beginning to show their school pride again; showing up to sporting events in droves, participating in Homecoming and Winter Carnival, and getting involved with extracurriculars. After a lot of refinement (with even more to come), the academies have become a place where many students succeed, enjoy themselves, and get a better idea of what they want to do with their lives in the future. In fact, the Lake Region School Board recently made it a graduation requirement to take an academy class for all four years. Our SAT scores and graduation rate have risen a fair amount, indicating a pattern that will hopefully continue in the future. The new Lake Region Library-Media Center and Vocational Center provide students with modern, up-to-date facilities in which to study and learn. We’ve even begun to receive some good press; with Mrs. LePage (the First Lady of Maine) visiting our school for a Veteran’s Day assembly earlier in the year, and recently the Commissioner of Education of Maine, Stephen Bowen, spending a day with us.
The lengths our school has come since my freshman year amaze me. Despite renovations and an academic overhaul, despite budget and faculty cuts, despite all the negativity and criticism we received; we’ve emerged as a better, stronger school in the end. When I first entered Lake Region High School as a freshman, I felt both excited and privileged to be able to call myself a Laker. Four years later, now a senior, these feelings haven’t disappeared. If anything, all the scrutiny and change that our school went through only intensified them. I’ve always been, and always will be, proud to be a Laker. With all the promise that Lake Region has proven itself to show these past few years, I hope that other students who follow me will say the same.
Resources and more information
- Commissioner explores “academies” at Lake Region HS
- Being a Laker, then and now
- Lake Region High School
- Ted Finn
Lake Region High School Principal