My name is McKenna Ragen. I am currently a senior at UPrep and I have been here since 6th grade. Before UPrep, I attended McGilvra Elementary.
As I prepared to give this speech tonight I thought back on my time at UPrep these past seven years. I realized a common theme was present throughout my time here. The theme of “opportunity” has been woven into my UPrep experience. UPrep has given me the opportunity to try many things and I took advantage of that. I failed at some of the things I tried along the way but looking back I am grateful that I had a school, and teachers, who gave me so many opportunities to keep trying.
When I left elementary school and came to UPrep in 6th grade, I took the opportunity to participate in Ultimate Frisbee, which I never saw myself trying. Now, I’m not going to play it at a Division I school in college, but I made the team because of the value UPrep places on having a no-cut sports policy. A no-cuts sports policy allows kids like me to try a new sport for the first time. We are given the opportunity to fail or to succeed, or simply just to use it as an opportunity to make new friends, which I also did. I also was given the opportunity to try a variety of extracurricular activities. I was a member of dance club, and of Science Olympiad. I was even in the Middle School musical my 7th and 8th grade years. I now know I will not be a scientist, even though I enjoyed being in Science Olympiad, or a Broadway performer, no matter how great my parents said I was in the musical, but I gained so many important skills from both.
When I entered high school, I joined many more activities that were new and appealing to me. In my sophomore year, I joined Mock Trial. In that, I act as an attorney in a different case every year and was able to apply the acting skills I gained from the Middle School musicals. I have also played tennis and soccer while in high school. One of my favorite clubs is facilitators club. We lead and navigate difficult conversations on topics from sexual assault to environmentalism for our peers in the Upper School. This club has and will be so applicable throughout my life as I have already learned how to lead, and be a member of, difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
I’ve talked a lot about the many things I was able to try here at UPrep, but I also want to give a shout out to the faculty. They have pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, to try new things, and to believe in myself. As I mentioned, I am not going to be a scientist, but when I was thinking about science classes for my senior year, one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Narasimhan, reached out to me and told me that I should take Quantitative Physics. Quant. Physics is one of the hardest courses taught at UPrep, and I was not planning on taking it. However, when when Dr. Narasimhan reached out to me, she gave me the push I needed to try a class that would expand my abilities. She encouraged me to try something that I was not sure I could do. I am currently in the class and I have already learned so much about physics and also about myself as a learner.
I owe my new-found passion, and what I would like to explore more in College to Global Online Academy, which we call GOA. UPrep partners with GOA, a program that allows UPrep students to choose from the over 40 classes that are offered. I took a class on Social Entrepreneurship. It was such an incredible experience and in the class I got to create a company that I want to make a reality in the future! I probably would not have uncovered this passion without that GOA class!
UPrep has exposed me to so many opportunities that have shown me my passions and even what I want to do with my future. I know that I will continue to involve myself in my communities and never stop trying new things. I owe a lot of that to UPrep and its focus on pushing students outside of their comfort zone and trying new things, even if you fail or do not like it, because you never know if you will uncover a new passion that you didn’t even realize was there until you tried.
Note: McKenna gave this speech to prospective families at UPrep's first Open House of the year on October 18.