My daughter and I are on a journey, and for one of the first times, she has to lead the way. We are deep in Catholic High School open house season. It’s a rite of passage for Catholic New Orleanians, and the first step towards answering a life-long question: “What school did you go to?” Anywhere else, they are probably asking about college. Here, the high school you attend could help you land a job or make you an instant friend. For those of us who grew up in the 90’s, it’s what we yell when DJ Jubilee tells us to.
As we sit on folded chairs and in pews, we hear poised and prepared educators chirp the mantras – “Visit all the schools.” “Not all schools are for everyone.” “You’re choosing your home for the next five years…” I know how true that is. I am, of course, reminded of when I was on this journey (cough, cough) years ago. This process has been extra emotional for me because my high school was closed after Katrina. It was more than a school to me. When I was considering the choices that my daughter is now considering, I liked a few schools, but I spent a day at Archbishop Blenk, and it just clicked. It was home. Both of my sisters went to Blenk, and the women I still consider my dearest friends (both fellow students and former teachers) – well, I met them there. Of course, I would love for my daughter to have visited and found her home there, but she can’t.
There isn’t really a way to communicate to her the full significance of what she is deciding. She’s looking at things like class sizes and the variety of clubs, but I know that the lessons taught in those buildings are not just academic. She will learn about love and trust and friendship. And she will learn about HER. She will come to cherish this institution as a network, a foundation, a family. Those chirping educators are right – not all schools are for everyone. The distinct character of each school is another way that the city we live, work, and grow in is unique and beautiful. And I look forward to my daughter leading us to where that will be. Even if she can’t be a legacy, from what I’ve seen so far, I know that whatever she decides, she’ll be in good hands.