Illiana really has changed who I am as a person, and certainly for the better. When I look back to who I was when I came into Illiana and who I am now, several things about myself are unrecognizable. Coming into illiana, I was very self-conscience, confused on who I was and didn’t know where my talents and gifts were. Illiana helped me through each of these areas of my life.
Walking into the halls of Illiana the first real day of school, the one with all the scary upperclassmen, I was terrified. I had no older siblings. I didn’t know a lot of people from the feeder schools and I was terrible at talking to people I didn’t know (still working on this one). Well, here I was, my best friend’s shadow. I felt like everyone else knew people and everyone else was so funny and I was just kinda there. This isn’t how it stayed though. I ended up getting involved with several sports, various clubs and a few singing groups. These helped me find confidence. I no longer needed to be the funniest one there. I didn’t need to talk to every single person in the halls. That just wasn’t me. But through all of the programs Illiana offers, I was able to find what was me. The different coaches and instructors in all of these activities pushed me to realize that I’m not living in someone’s shadow. I can make my own story if I just step out and try.
Illiana also encouraged me to step out of my normal thought process. Now, I know Illiana may not be the most diverse environment, but it does have many different views. I love how the teachers here give you options. They don’t just cram ideas into your head. They want to hear what you have to say. They want you to develop into what you were supposed to be, not a miniature version of themselves. In many of my classes, being presented with options was a pleasant surprise. It caused me to think about what I actually believe and what makes sense to me. It gave me the chance to learn who I really was and what was important to me. This helped me become more secure in myself, leading me to grow and mature.
Somewhat tieing with my first point, Illiana helped me learn where my gifts and talents really were. Illiana is a place that allows you to explore what you were created to do and how you can help others. Through sports, like volleyball, tennis, basketball and soccer, through singing, like Chambers and Fine Arts, and through other groups, like Praise Crowd and Big Brother/Big Sister, I was clearly able to see where my gifts and talents were. Maybe I don’t make people laugh so hard their stomach hurts, but I am a good leader. Maybe I’m not the most outgoing person ever, but I am very organized. I learned that even though I wasn’t some of these things, I was still appreciated and cherished. I still made a difference.
Illiana was the place where I really found myself. I know I know, that sounds so cliche, but really. As a senior looking back, Illiana was the best thing that ever happened to me. I learned so many lessons here, some I had fun learning and some took their toll on me, but they taught me so much. In these halls, I began to stand up for myself. I learned who I was and what I believed. I found my gifts and talents. I’m excited to use the things Illiana has taught me when I leave these halls at the end of this school year.