Behind the scenes on a free two-year degree

How the drive to suceed can sometimes be a double edged sword

During the Fall, the West Port band prepares a marching show to compete in district competitions. On the podium is Dani O’Neal, Senior Drum Major to the band. The title of the band’s show was “Fallen Soldier”. Photo credit: Debbie O’Neal

If you read the previous column on Dual Enrollment, then you know what it took to get into the program and how it took some time getting used to navigating both high school and college at the same time. And it hadn’t exactly gotten easier.

So I will say this, not with ego in mind or the idea of bragging about my accomplishments, but simply to give you guys an understanding about how taxing it can be for not just me, but all dual enrollment students.

Being someone who qualifies to be a part of a program like this means that I have to be hardworking and very ambitious. These qualities have been what kept me successful in my classes but have backfired has fair as keeping me level headed.

I’ve been a band member at West Port since my freshman year. After playing the tuba for both marching and concert seasons for three years, I decided to run for a leadership position where I would share the responsibility of the enter band with two other students. I’ve been Drum Major, the title of said position, with two amazing fellow student leaders since the beginning of this school year.

During marching season there were many late nights where the band would perform at school football games every other Friday. Weekly Tuesday and Thursday after school practices with the occasional Saturday rehearsal took up a good chunk of time. Now, with concert season at its height, our band has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, we will have already returned from our week in the Big Apple.

In relation to band, I decided to join the Winter Guard team which has already performed at the district level and received a Superior, the highest rating given, and will be going to be evaluated at state-level competition. Color Guard performs with the band during marching season and it inspired me and the other two Drum Major’s to audition for Winter Guard. After practicing for about a month prior to tryouts, all three of us made it.

There are other leadership roles I’ve taken on at my high school that are more academically inclined. I am the president of the English National Honors Society at West Port where we coordinate book drives for other schools and help with after school tutoring. Being Captain of West Port’s Book Club gives me the responsibility of organizing the Book Bowl team, which competes in the Florida Sunshine State book trivia with other Marion County high schools.

Phi Theta Kappa and National Honors Society are both academic groups that only accept students who have and maintain a certain GPA. The National Honors Society is with the high school while Phi Theta Kappa is affiliated with CF. I was able to get into both groups. Also at West Port, I am on the Student Council which has organized our schools Homecoming, Sadi Kahin’s, and Prom dances.

To wrap everything up, around Christmas I decided I was tired of asking my dad for gas money all the time and that I wanted to have a job. I’d always wanted to work at Barnes & Noble since I was little. Being an aspiring author, it made sense to get my first job at a bookstore. This was my third time applying for a job at our local Barnes & Noble when I finally got the job as a Barista. I didn’t know I would like to work there as much as I do, but I find that I really enjoy it and I’ve been working there ever since.

Outside of taking four college classes each semester, including summer, and of cores, being an editor for the Patriot Press, that seems to be everything.

That was kind of long-winded, but again, I only share this much to try and show you as a reader what a majority of dual-enrolled students push themselves to do. Yes, no one made me sign up for all of this. Everything that I’m doing, all of the stress I’m under, I did that to myself. That’s just the kind of person I am. Ironically, it’s the kind of people that the Dual Enrollment program is tailored for.

A professor of mine at West port, Dr. Hunte, phrased it very well. To what we do, because I assure you if you talk with any dual-enrolled student long enough you’ll see they will have a schedule as packed as mine, we have to enjoy the pain of learning and stressful situations.

It’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard someone say. Yet it’s stuck with me ever since he said that. It’s weird to think of pain as being enjoyable but progress comes from discomfort. Without the darkness making it hard to see, the light bulb wouldn’t have been necessary.

I and many others have pushed ourselves to our breaking point. Only that we aren’t breaking, we are growing. We are pushing ourselves to be better at our crafts, better learners, better people and yes it hurts and it’s stressful but it’s something I find I have to do.