South’s students discover identity through transfer from private to public school

Gwyn Skiles, staff reporter

The age of adolescence tends to be a time where life is filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, mostly experienced during the five days a week spent at school, according to junior Jack Taylor. He says whether it’s a public or private school, the environment makes an impact on the path towards finding your true self.

According to the Guidance Department, 254 out of 3,113 Glenbrook South students came from a private school. Senior Yenny Ha says when she first came to South after transferring from Loyola Academy, a Jesuit private school, she noticed how students expressed themselves more. Ha says one of the biggest examples of this was how the student attire reflected their identities. According to Ha, deciding which clothes to wear was difficult for her at first since at her private school her outfits were for the most part chosen for her.

“It felt weird not wearing my uniform every day,” Ha said. “For the first few weeks of school [at South], I spent so much time thinking about what I would wear to school every day rather than what color polo I felt like wearing. It was interesting to see what clothing choices people made and how they could express themselves through their clothes.”

Like Ha, history teacher Reggie Lara first taught at South after transferring from Notre Dame College Prep, an all-boys Catholic private school in Niles. He notes the freedoms and privileges South offers to students and expresses how at South, individuality is celebrated, differences and mistakes are accepted and the individual is in part created through South’s encouraging public school environment.

“When I was hired here, my instructional supervisor explained that he thought the biggest difference I would notice would be how at South students are provided with the comfort for being themselves, and the staff works hard to make students enjoy being at school,” Lara said. “I feel as if at South student’s are more able to be themselves, whereas at Notre Dame the students felt pressure to fit into a box and conform to what the school thought was a well-behaved young man.”

Taylor attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), a Catholic, private, grade school. He says that his time there was more restrictive than at South. According to Taylor, the day-to-day rules and regulations he had to follow at OLPH limited the freedom that he currently has at South.

“I feel like we didn’t have as much freedom at OLPH as we do at South,” Taylor said. “In the hallways at OLPH, we couldn’t have cell phones out, we had to wear uniforms every day and they treated us as children rather than holding us to the potential of grown-ups like South does.”

Similar rules were present during Lara’s time at Notre Dame. According to Lara, he would have to give students detentions for the way they came to school dressed. He states that regulations such as these were put in place to build the school’s understanding of a man with good character.

“I felt as if at Notre Dame the school culture was all about character-building, rule-following and discipline,” Lara said. “I would have to give kids detentions for not getting haircuts, not shaving properly, not tucking their shirts in, not wearing belts and not wearing the appropriate shoes on the days we had masses.”

Despite the fact that Loyola was a Jesuit school, Ha states that the teachers and rules the students had to follow didn’t force religion onto anybody. She says everyone had certain required tasks, but the majority of religious activities were optional.

“Everyone was required to take a theology class and for Catholic holidays they would hold a mass,” Ha said. “Since not everyone was Catholic, it wasn’t required for them to participate in prayer and most religious activities were optional.”

According to Lara, he came to South wanting a more collaborative environment with teachers. He describes South as being a place where teachers discuss different ways to reach their students.

“At Notre Dame, I was given a textbook and was told to teach it,” Lara said. “I was in my own classroom and didn’t leave that room unless I was headed to lunch. I felt as if I wanted to get better at teaching and collaborate with other teachers more to do so.”

Lara reflects on the four years he spent at Norte Dame to an enjoyable experience. The bonds he had with the students, their families, and the other teachers were powerful and greatly influenced by the small community that Notre Dame provides.

“I loved the relationships I had with the other teachers, students, and families,” Lara said. “It was a smaller school complete with about 800 students. I knew almost every kid in the school and loved this family feel.”