The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



Senior Jane Culbreath on Life-Long Accomplishments and Personal Growth – Senior Essays

Senior Jane Culbreath on Life-Long Accomplishments and Personal Growth - Senior Essays

Graphic Courtesy of Senior Olivia Cusick

San Luis Obispo High School Expressions is celebrating senior accomplishment by publishing senior admission essays.

Senior Jane Culbreath wrote the following piece based on the common application prompt: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others”.

Culbreath committed to Cal Poly SLO with a major in psychology and child development.

A significant, yet often unspoken, lesson learned through a public school education is
how to conform to our cultural norms. When I think back to elementary school, I recall a
pervasive undercurrent of anxiety and a fixation on how best to conform. At its worst, this
pressure to conform is the fuel of bullies and incubator of intolerance. Yet, some measure of
conformity is essential to the existence of civilized society. In school we are conforming as we
wait in line, work in groups, do homework, put trash in trash cans, and patiently raise a hand
before speaking in class. From an early age I honed this dance of conformity. I largely avoided
the ire of bullies and earned approval from teachers.

It was in middle school that my core identity and belief structure developed to be
meaningfully my own. Conformity was no longer an option as I professed my bisexual identity
and as I defended my non-religious worldview, and I was blindsided by the scale and severity of
the negative response that came my way. It was during this tumult that I came to the key
realization that reframed nearly every interaction I’ve had since. I realized that among my
detractors, there was a common reactionary element, a blindness to the human superpower of
agency. I realized that while there is very little in this world that we have control over— we can’t
control our circumstances, scientific truths, feelings, or sexual orientation— what we do have
control over is how we choose to react to these experiences.

By focusing on my choices, my reaction to other people’s actions is not an immediate
question of right or wrong, but instead a question of “why?” I can choose to be empathetic and
imagine the forces that drive the behavior of others. I choose to be optimistic and not retreat into
cynicism and dogma. I choose radical acceptance of others’ beliefs and identities. Unlike a gut
reaction, a reasoned choice can be communicated to resolve conflict.

Beyond my interactions with others, my commitment to making choices has shaped my
aspirations and pursuits. I have chosen to have a voice—create and put new ideas out into the
world. Behind every invention, story, or trend is a flash of inspiration. These are the creative
sparks that fuel the flame of human consciousness. I have chosen to maximize opportunities for
creativity in my life. Whether I’m playing french horn in an ensemble, playing my ukulele, or
singing, I love to make music. I enjoy writing, and I love the satisfaction that comes with crafting
the perfect sentence or constructing a compelling argument. I like the pace and challenge of
reporting the news succinctly or elevating another writer’s prose as an editor of the newspaper.
I love the feeling of creating something from nothing, and my creative pursuits have awoken me
to the reality that those who choose to create are the ones who shape our world.

I choose kindness, even when it is not easy or impulsive. Deliberate choices come with
the courage to stand up for those choices and speak up against injustice. I choose
collaboration over competition: Knowledge is never a zero-sum game, and the tide raises all
ships. I choose to set goals that are ambitious, and to always do my best. I know that the things
worth doing are hard, and there will be setbacks, yet I choose to push ahead. I choose to not
dwell on resentment and remorse, but focus instead on the choices ahead.

As a graduating senior, this year requires some famously difficult choices to be made. As
I’ve contemplated where I want to go to college, and what my life will be, I’ve been thankful for
my difficult time in middle school—because in so many ways I’ve been making the important
choices of life ever since.

Seniors, send in those admission essays! Email [email protected] or message @slohsexpressions on Instagram with a digital copy of your essay, the prompt you answered, and the school you will be attending.

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