Hating my school district in my little village, I decided to leave the area and go instead to DSHA high school. Full name alert: Divine Savior Holy Angels College Preparatory School for Women. Yup, that's right, an all-girls Catholic school, one of the few in Wisconsin actually.
To most people I mention this, they find it either:
~Hilarious because they know I'm not Catholic and am not a fan of many of the practices of the branch of Christianity.
~Shocking because they know I'm fairly liberal and it most likely would be a conservative environment.
~Sad because I must be completely inept when it comes to interacting with the male species.
~A turn-on (for guys) at the idea of a school full of women and extra turn-on when I mention that I still have my uniform somewhere.
To the first: yes, I am not Catholic, I am Methodist, but the "Catholic atmosphere" wasn't overbearing in the slightest so I didn't feel uncomfortable at all.
To the second: again yes, I am a "bleeding heart liberal" in the words of many of my former classmates, but having conservative friends helped open my eyes to other points of view and strengthen my own.
To the third: no, it is not a school full of girls having naked pillow fights (sorry guys) and we are not inept with interacting with guys (I am for my own social awkwardness, something which DSHA had little with which to do).
To the last: I can promise, boys, that having my uniform isn't that sexy. It was (at least when I was there) a wool gray plaid skirt with a burgundy, white, or navy polo shirt. Comfy? Convenient? Yes and yes, but not that mouth-watering, I assure you.
When I was in Ireland, it was interesting because I was part of the majority for going to an all girls school as that seemed to be a more common thing than back in the States. But when I am home, people often feel sorry for me or are confused as to why I would torture myself in such a way.
However I can honestly say that those four years at DSHA were four of the best and after having such a negative middle school experience, a true blessing. DSHA gave me hope that girls can be friends and are not all vindictive or out to get one another. They are kind, caring, hilarious, loyal, and accepting. I felt accepted for of the few times in my life (another time would be in Cork).
The first day of high school, I was terrified because I knew no one. I sat down at a lunch table with several strangers and six years later, the eight of us are all still best friends. It sounds like a cheesy after-school special, I know, but it's the truth and one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
My girls, as I frequently call them, have seen me through so much and picked me up more times than I can count. They never failed to point out my flaws when I needed it or bring me back down to reality. They attended many a forced-play in support of me and let me bash about teachers and assignments when I needed it. We have more inside jokes than are probably culturally appropriate and have annoyed many a mall attendant and teachers in the Quad at DSHA during loud lunch periods.
Beyond my fantastic friends here in WI though, the whole student body was there for me, including my theater friends. My sophomore year was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD and started experiencing my first flashbacks which led to some self-destructive behaviors. The theater community at DSHA helped pick me up, get me into therapy again, and deal with all the stress in my life.
The school was there for me and my sister when our mom died my junior year and Stephie's freshman, having a school-wide prayer service for her and busing kids out to Whitefish Bay during the school day for the funeral. So many students and teachers showed up at the wake that it lasted for hours, the line going outside and wrapping around the building. Without this amazing support group, I don't know if Stephie and I would have done so well.
DSHA, as much as we Dashers like to make fun of it when we're there, does instill the four qualities of the DSHA graduate: Leader, Believer, Communicator, and Critical Thinker. Every graduate I have known or met does exemplify these qualities and so many more. The day I graduated was a complete mix of happiness and sadness and when I saw my sister graduate just a month ago, two years after me, my tears were of joy and pride. I had watched those girls grow up from itty bitty freshman to confident and capable graduating seniors.
I get all mushy when I talk about DSHA because it was such an influential part of my life, a part that is so life-changing for many young teens. Your high school years can be the best or worst years of your schooling and they were (next to college, of course) the best for me. DSHA--along with going to Iowa, studying abroad this last semester, and joining my sorority--was one of the best decisions I have made.
Anyways, this post is meant almost as a love letter to the school that helped me grow up emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. So thank you, Divine Savior Holy Angels, for giving me faith in the female population once again and giving me the skills to go on to college and the "real world".
Every time I drive by that building and see the school sign, it puts a smile on my face. It reminds me of those happy years full of taco salad, sweatpants sneaked under uniform skirts, amusing announcements and school assemblies, almost too many Starbucks trips, half days spent at Mayfair Mall, and inspiring class retreats. DSHA, I will never forget you for the amazing memories and unbelievable friends you have brought me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.