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Tokens of Small Community Unity

It makes me happy to see others happy. I will never stop trying to make the world a happier place — for all.

Murray is a special experience for each and every student in the school district. It’s a different setting than most schools — with under 500 students in all four grades of high school, the community dynamic is strong. I wanted to see whether or not students who identify as members of a minority race/religion/ethnicity have a unique perspective on this school district: what they like, what they don’t like, and what characteristics of school environment they find individual to the Murray experience. One day after school, I gathered a group of four and had a valuable discussion on what Murray High has taught to us — inside and outside of the classroom.

My first question was: what is one thing your dream school would have?

Andia Karanja quickly and easily responded, “teachers!” and we all had a chuckle about that. Her response may seem like a “given”, but the commentary she provided us on maintaining high standards of teaching stands as a testament to the values Murray High has instilled in us when it comes to reaching as close to perfection in education as humanly possible. I followed up what she meant specifically in saying this, and she detailed by saying a dream school should have,

“teachers who work effectively to help the student learn.”

“I think our school has pretty good teachers!” She said. and I agree. Despite being a particularly small school receiving limited state funding in a community of only 20,000, Murray Independent School District has been recognized at the statewide level for academic excellence and for having an exceptional teaching staff. According to Niche, Murray High is number 6 out of 241 in best Kentucky Public High Schools, and number 1 out of 240 in best public high school teachers in Kentucky. Seeing that excellence in action has definitely influenced how essential we believe a dedicated teaching staff is to the success of pupils.

My next question refocused on specific educational aspects of high school.

“Do you feel like the things you’re learning right now will benefit you?”

and the response fits the character of a small school. Because of the more focused classroom settings, students are able to make the most of their time directly learning the curriculum. Also, our teachers have been able to instruct us both in content and in studying and organizational habits that will benefit us for years to come.

“If the class is equally as hard but has less content, well, I have done it before, I can do it again…teachers (here) have a genuine relationship with their students. They genuinely care for them and work towards a better future for those students.” — Andia

Following this, Andia brought up specific classes like AP Biology and AP United States History. Though the classes seemed next to impossible to ace during the first few weeks, learning to study efficiently and thoroughly for the sake of retaining content helped many students begin acing exams and assignments both in and out of those exceptionally difficult courses. Overall, both content-based and non-content learning has helped Murray High students thrive now and for years to come.

When I asked what they believe the ultimate purpose of school is.

Jieun Lee commented that by connecting with our peers at school,

"we are able to learn a lot from the friends we make here."

Jieun herself is a student who moved here late in her Junior year. She is originally from South Korea and lived in California before she came here. She was pleasantly surprised upon moving here. Jieun found the close community of Murray High and the friends she made when she joined Color Gaurd were able to provide her the personal help she needed to enhance her knowledge of English as a second language.

But one thing our small school setting might want to look into improving are, for example, student council elections.

Over the years, it seems as though these elections have become a formality. Debates between candidates are not held, and sometimes students are not even aware of who is running until they receive the ballot.

When asked how individual students can try to increase student voice and student representation in schools, Caroline Kim, Junior Class Vice President, said we need to look closer into student council elections and activity, because it’s almost a “sped-up” process now. As a representative, she strives to live up to her title and wants to make sure all else who earn those offices do the same.

“I feel like the way we elect student council is kind of vague. You never know when it’s going to happen, you don’t who exactly is getting elected.” said Andia.

Ansam El-beram, an active member of after-school organizations and volunteer work sponsored by Murray High, stated,

“We need to stop making elections a popularity contest.”

Most everyone at Murray high is aware student council elections are run this way, but it has become very difficult to find a solution to this in recent years without enacting serious change to the way candidacy as a whole is vetted. Some possible solutions include hosting candidate debates and ensuring candidates have a platform to run on. Additionally, candidates should be required to distribute campaign material — something currently not required at Murray High and something I believe contributes to cases where students are not aware of who they are voting for until they go to vote.

Overall, Murray’s small school environment seems to be the biggest part of what makes Murray a unique learning environment for all, whether you are heavily demographically represented in this region or not.

The teaching experience we receive here is unparalleled to other schools — especially those who are substantially larger.

The friends we make can truly help us grow in ways we had not known we were prepared for.

Issues like student council elections can be easily solved by creating more demanding requirements to be an officer or candidate. At the end of the day, students are able to find their niche here, and hopefully, with a decrease in student apathy and an increase in student involvement, small dysfunctions that are simply considered “part of the way things work at Murray High” can be made right.