Each month, a student from one of our high schools will write a guest post for the Superintendent Blog. The students will be asked to reflect on one of the characteristics described in our Graduate Profile. This month, Sage Creek High School student Amanda Klein reflects on the characteristic of “Ethical & Responsible Citizen.”

Carlsbad Unified Graduate Profile: Ethical & Responsible Citizen

“Graduates display integrity and civic-mindedness. They honor their commitments and aspire to the highest standards.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The timer goes off—testing time is over. I look up and the teacher is not in the room anymore. I could easily keep on working, but then the test would not be an accurate reflection of my understanding of the material and that decision would not be an accurate reflection of who I want to be as a person.

Our school’s trimester system means that our classes are fast-paced and, therefore, very stressful. All of the pressure put on students to perform well, combined with the competitive nature of honors classes, might cause some students to collapse under the expectations and take part in academic dishonesty.

It may seem like an insignificant decision to copy a friend’s homework one day to avoid a zero, but these little things can build up and spread like wildfire until you find yourself constantly making immoral decisions—both in school and out of it. However, the people who do not let the pressure break them down and instead band together thrive in the intense environment—rather than being driven apart by competition, they are brought closer to one another.

In the days leading up to AP exams and finals, it is not an uncommon sight to see our library’s study rooms full of students helping each other learn.

We as people are a collection of moments—memories tied up with string that have helped to shape us into who we are today. When I was a kid, my dad shared his “glass half-full” outlook on life with us whenever the opportunity came up, and I believe this has made me a more optimistic person. Who we become as people is highly affected by the experiences we have and the choices we make.

If you see someone every day, the physical changes in them—how much taller they are getting, what their smile looks like—go unnoticed; you cannot pinpoint the exact moment they became taller than you or their smile starts to look less like their mom’s and more like their own. This is the same with the changes that happen inside us; you do not wake up one day as a good person or as a bad person. Who you are deep down inside is developed by the little everyday choices you make; whether you choose to be nice to your sibling in the morning when you were leaving for school or ask someone who took a test before you for some of the questions.

Every single day the decisions we make pile up inside us, changing us as we grow. This does not mean we cannot make mistakes, for mistakes are how we learn to make the right decisions in the first place.

High school is a time when a person’s character is constantly tested. There will be times when you are faced with a choice and don’t know what decision will be the right one to take. This struggle of the moral compass does not end in high school; high-pressure situations that could tempt one to take the easy way out are present in the real world just as much—if not more—as they are in your teen years.

The way you face these struggles now affects the way you will be akin to facing them in the future.

We must trust in what we have been taught and believe in what we feel because, in the end, it doesn’t matter what others in high school thought of you. It matters what you think of yourself —whether you can look inside at the end of the day and be proud of the person you have become.

I entered this high school in a hard time in my life, struggling to understand why bad things have to happen. It is not the choices we make when things are going well, but the choices we make when things are not so easy that shape our character.

The people I met and the ideas that were exposed to me while I was here helped to make me into the person I am today.

And even now, with eighteen years in this world under my belt, I am still not sure what decision is the right one sometimes. But, I know that I will be able to learn from whatever happens and grow as a person.

This is why I choose to turn in my test when the timer goes off no matter who is around. The person who knows me best inside is myself and it is important to be proud of the decisions made when no one else is around to see. There will be many times not only in high school but in life when we are tempted to test the limits of what we can get away with. These choices will add up to define who we are one day, and on that day I hope to be able to say that I am a good person trying to make the world a better place.

Amanda Klein is a senior at Sage Creek High School who will be going to the University of California – Santa Cruz in the fall to study environmental science. When she is not writing articles for The Sage, she likes to go hiking with her friends.

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