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A Strong Foundation for High School

Chris Rodriguez, Fort Worth Academy Class 2012
You may not realize it now, but Fort Worth Academy does a heck of a good job preparing you for high school, and it’s such a wonderful place that I have a bounty of fond memories for. Since I’m a 9 year club member, if I wanted to share all of my good memories, we’d be here all day. I clearly remember my 8th grade and 6th grade buddies, and still have the gifts they got me, a tic tac toe board I received in kindergarten, and a toy airplane I received in 2nd grade. Moving on to 4th grade, I broke my elbow playing soccer. It was my writing arm, but I was still able to get my work done. How? Mrs. Elliot wrote what I wanted as I dictated to her. FWA is full of teachers that have this level of commitment. All of my positive memories in lower school brought me back there in middle school as I used my elective time to be a student assistant, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was doing Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish more. The combination of learning online and in class helped me master the language faster, so I could communicate with my family in El Salvador. It made high school Spanish breeze by. In 7th grade, I was already in 8th grade math, but Mr. Porter noticed I wasn’t being fully challenged, so he said “Chris, I want you to ignore everything I say in class, and just read the book, teach yourself, do problems, and come to me when you’re ready for a test.” I finished several chapters ahead of the rest of the class. These are just a few of countless memories, like going undefeated in soccer in 7th grade, or the fun time that was the 8th grade DC Trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation for high school.
Freshman year at Trinity Valley was, without a doubt, easier than 8th grade at Fort Worth Academy up until second semester, when I got very sick. I was out of school from the end of January to the beginning of May. However, thanks to my experience studying by myself, I was able to learn the material at home, and I would make it in to school when I felt well enough just to take a test. The doctors never figured out what was wrong with me, but at the end of the semester, my report card still showed all A’s. Before I got sick, I had an art class. One day I noticed my teacher had speakers in her room, but we never listened to music. I asked her, “Ms. Chaffee, can I play music?” Her response was, “The only way we’ll play music is if you make it.” Well that day, I went home, got all of the relevant licensing and production software, and a couple weeks later, I had a techno album on iTunes, and we listened to it every day in art class. Besides this musical feat, I also made the varsity soccer team freshman year, and have been on it every year since. At Trinity Valley, you are presented with plenty of opportunities to push yourself academically by taking Advanced Placement class, good for college credit. So far, depending on where I go to school I’d have about 24 hours worth of college credit, and I still have 7 more Advanced Placement tests to take at the end of this year. Pushing myself academically has led to lots of recognition. I have received awards like AP Scholar with Distinction, Commended National Merit Scholar, National Hispanic Merit Scholar, Headmaster’s List (for all A’s), but the award I am most proud of I got right here, the George T. Tade Leadership Award.

At Trinity Valley, like many private schools, you are required to get at least 60 hours of community service to graduate. I’ve volunteered many places, but the place I am most proud to have helped is Fort Worth Academy. The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I came up frequently, and during a hectic time of construction, I helped Mr. Orlando and Mr. Loy with various tasks such as powerwashing, painting, and lining the fields. A lot of work goes into making the school look great in the fall, and I was happy to help, and I have over double the 60 hour requirement. The next summer, my family and I went on an insane tour of top schools in the nation. The California trip was a week long and we flew, but the everything else trip was over a month, and we drove from Texas, all the way to the northeast seeing incredible schools, sights, and family along the way. All of the visits were well worth it, as I narrowed it down to only 15 top schools to apply to, including 7 out of the 8 Ivies, Stanford, Caltech, Vanderbilt, Duke, just to name a few. I’ve interviewed with 8 schools so far, and am currently lining up an interview with Dartmouth. As for what I’ll be studying, I’m not totally sure. I’ve loved math all my life, and in high school I developed an affinity for Economics and Chemistry. So I could easily see myself studying finance, chemical engineering, or both.

When I first came into high school, I was deadset on being a lawyer. Now, it’s barely on my radar. I encourage you all to come into high school with an open mind. Find what interests you, maybe its economics or chemistry, or maybe it’s creative writing. Come in with an open mind to all of your classes, and then you’ll truly discover how much you could like a topic. I also challenge you all to push yourselves to be the best you can be. Straight A’s doesn’t matter if you got them in classes that didn’t challenge you. Because in the end, school isn’t about grades at all, it’s what you learn that matters, and learning is a lifelong pursuit that you’ll be doing long after you’ve graduated.

Obviously, to be inducted into NJHS, you are already on a strong path. You should be proud of your accomplishments thus far. And I know you will all strive to continue to achieve and learn. I wish all of you and your families congratulations and the best of luck in your future endeavors.
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