Seniors Speak: IMSA Is Not Perfect

Heidi Dong (‘16) submitted this article as part of our annual Seniors Speak series. This series is designed to give seniors who are leaving a final opportunity to share their voice and preserve the traditions and experience of IMSA’s seniors alive long after they’ve graduated. Heidi lived in 1503 for her three years at IMSA. She served as Student Council’s President

You hear whispers of it, muttered words and aggravated sighs.

“Ugh, I hate this place.”

“Why does admin hate us?”

“IMSA’s the worst.”

“God, I can’t wait to graduate.”

Yes, it’s true.

IMSA is not perfect.

There are so many things that IMSA could do differently. There are different ways classes could be structured, different ways students could be supported, even different ways that students could be selected. There are countless things that happen at IMSA that irk its community, and there are countless things that frustrate us and anger us and make us say that IMSA could be so much better.

And that’s perfectly okay.

We all come to IMSA with expectations. Those expectations vary from person to person, but too often, we find that our expectations are not met. As a result, we find ourselves disheartened, disappointed, and disillusioned. And disillusionment is dangerous. It’s what causes us to complain endlessly but to give up on finding improvement, believing that nothing can ever be bettered.

I am not denying that there are changes to be made at IMSA. What I am saying is that it is possible to consider things that could—or should—be enhanced without becoming disillusioned. Let your discomfort drive your desire for improvement.

Which begs the question—if IMSA is not perfect, what are we to do?

In short, strive for change. There is nothing wrong with noting problems if an effort is made to identify solutions. At IMSA, there are outlets through which we can channel our frustration. At the risk of sounding self-indulgent, the first location to seek transformation is not by complaining directly to adults or by trying to singlehandedly muster student teams to challenge the norm. The entire reason Student Council exists is to serve as a conduit for discussion between students and adults at IMSA. Offering a single, united front is infinitely more effective than mounting disjointed revolution. Further, Student Council has gathered a body of organizational memory to draw upon, and we have centered our efforts on building credibility with faculty, staff, and more members of the IMSA community. We exist to serve you, and we have the tools to do it.

That being said, it is still important to recognize reality. It can be endlessly frustrating to have idea after idea shut down, entire initiatives and proposals and weeks of work crushed after a single meeting and nothing to show for it. But there are reasons that things fail, and they may be reasons that we would never consider. Accusations and insults are counterproductive. Everyone at IMSA does want the best for this school, even if they have different ideas on what the best IMSA looks like. Creating discord in the community only serves to lose precious credibility and to show that we are seemingly incapable of offering productive suggestions for change.

At the same time, we should cherish what we do have. Too often we forget what IMSA does have to offer, and we start to take things for granted. For most students at IMSA, we have opportunities here that we never could have imagined at our home schools. The chance to live and learn here gives us residential, academic, extracurricular, and social experiences that so many of us have benefited from. Because what IMSA is very good at is bringing together a community of passionate individuals. From the students to the faculty to the frequently insulted administration, the people here are what make IMSA great.

Find things you’re passionate about. Try new things, explore outside of class, discover the things that really matter. Truly use IMSA to the best of your abilities. Three years may seem like an eternity as a sophomore, but by senior year, it will have passed by in the blink of an eye. Make that moment meaningful.

When I look back at IMSA, it’s true—I’ll remember the feeling of being stressed, what it feels like to know the panic of an assignment overload or the fear of an upcoming test. But more than anything, I’ll remember the late-night glow of a dorm room filled with the people I love. I’ll remember the laughter and the hugs, the smiles and the jokes. I’ll remember the swelling pride from walking into Clash pep rally as not just a hall but as a family, decked out in matching gear and making the gym ring with our chants.

Treasure the good things at IMSA. Never forget to be grateful for what IMSA has given you. If there are things that can be improved, endeavor to improve them, and do not let failure discourage you. But our time here is short, so enjoy every moment. Because no, IMSA is not perfect. But it is still our home, and it is still an incredible place.

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