Published August, 2016

I’ve been swimming since I was in the first grade, so it only felt natural that I should try to convince four of my Woodlawn friends to start the first-ever Woodlawn varsity swim team. And so we did. Despite my years of competitive swimming, I’d never actually led a team. But Coach Jackie tossed me my brand new Woodlawn swim cap and said, “you’re going to be the captain.” I can still remember clearly thinking, “Man, I’m so glad to be wearing this green swim cap emblazoned with the bold white “W”.” That was then. Fast forward two years: we have 15 members swimming on our “tiny” but mighty team and just last year we ranked first of all 1A schools in swimming.

It makes you wonder how we did it — how did we grow this team and how did we become the best swim team of 1A schools? Was it skill? I believe it to be something else entirely. Students who go to Woodlawn understand something I like to call “coachability”. It’s the ability to be corrected, learn from mistakes, and always be ready to try something different. And this carries into the classroom as well. The student-teacher relationship here is unmatched. It’s not atypical to hear conversations between student and teacher during our lunch hour about the African water crisis or how to create a black hole that won’t de-atomize the Earth. Woodlawn gives every student freedoms, responsibilities, and trust. And this allows us to grow and affect those around us.

This year, along with two of my classmates, we’re building the Woodlawn Outdoors Education Program (WOE). With supervision from Mr. Van Amburgh, we are constructing a low ropes course program for the school along with an entire curriculum for an outdoor training experience. I could never have dreamed of doing something like this anywhere else.

This is my last year at Woodlawn. I’m looking for ways to make an impact—whether it be the ropes course, a Ga-Ga pit (we built one of those my sophomore year), or contributing to our swim team’s accolades. Woodlawn has given me a drive to be the best I can be. It’s truly different from anywhere else. The people here are here to help you be the best you can be.

Zach is currently a junior at the US Air Force Academy.

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