This year marks one decade since June 8, 2005, graduation day for the Oak Park middle schools’ eighth-grade classes of 2005. We made Oak Park history by being the first to graduate after having been at the newly built middle schools for three years — the first group of sixth graders to attend the school. 

I look back on my years as a student at Percy Julian Middle School with great fondness, because it was a time I flourished as a person and the experiences there profoundly shaped me. 

Even in such a large-scale building, I got a good educational experience, thanks to the structure of the academic learning teams, which is one of the major features of the design of our middle school buildings. 

But the excitement of a brand-new building was just the start of what made middle school so special for me. 

I recall the many opportunities to express myself during those years at Julian. I was able to participate, and excel, in competitions like the Spelling Bee and the National Geography Bee. I also served on Student Council, which gave me the chance to be in leadership and work on projects and serve my fellow students. 

I’m glad to see that the middle schools continue to provide opportunities for students to express themselves. From attending plays at Julian and Brooks recently, I can tell that the students who had roles in these productions really appreciated and embraced the opportunity to express their creativity through the theater programs at both schools. 

Going to Julian was also the first time I stepped out of my section of Oak Park and experienced in a whole new way the sense of diversity that is the pride of Oak Park. I interacted with people of many cultural backgrounds, which helped me appreciate my own background even more. I met many Jewish classmates, and even one of my teachers, who openly shared what his faith meant to him. Their openness caused me to embrace more deeply my own Christian faith, which, over the years since, has become a very important part of my life. Indeed, it led me to be a teacher in Ascension Parish’s Religious Education program for the past two years, where I’ve been privileged to share what faith means with middle school students. 

Indeed, those years had an enormous influence on who I am today. I am so grateful for those who exerted the effort that converted a vision into the reality that the middle schools were for me, and continue to be years later. 

And that is why, one decade after graduating, I am honored to say that I am a member of the Percy Julian Middle School Class of 2005.

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