By Andre Montoya
I graduated this year from a school where I had spent seven years of my life. Without that public charter school, I would not be as successful as I am today.
The Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE) is not an ordinary school when compared to other high schools in the valley. The focus may be science-based, but the main rationale of the school is to “change reality.” This means challenging the norm of what can be taught and accomplished.
SLCSE has received recognition over the years for the exceptional work the school has demonstrated. Just recently SLCSE was awarded sixth place in the nation as a “School of Opportunity.”
When I first visited the school as a guest in the third grade, I saw a very new place. Literally, the building was being remodeled. The ceiling was gutted open, walls were unfinished with bags hanging over them, dust and the sound of construction permeated the air. Move forward to 2011 when I attended the sixth grade, and the school had changed very much. There was a bike shop, science fair division, and a beautiful courtyard that the students themselves maintained with animals, a pond and a garden.
I remember how nervous I was when I first came to SLCSE; I was afraid of not having friends or having trouble in school. My fears were put to rest. I garnered incredible friends and have had more academic success than I ever thought possible. One student who came to SLCSE a few years after me told me that I had helped him get over those same fears. I didn’t even know I had, but I know now that it was because of the more social attitude I had gained at SLCSE that I gained from the friends I made there.
Self confidence is something I have struggled with for a while. Looking back at the accomplishments I have earned for myself at SLCSE, I’m amazed at what I can do. It is all thanks to my teachers, without whom I would not have graduated, providing so many opportunities for me.
I argued in front of real judges as a lawyer for Mock Trial. I performed poetry in front of large crowds multiple times for Poetry Out Loud. I gave a TED Talk at my school’s first ever TEDx event. I participated in my school’s annual trip to Washington DC after a year of volunteering and fundraising. I’ve been on multiple camping trips because my school has a lot of gear and enthusiasm for the outdoors. I’ve taken multiple AP classes and never quit because of my teachers’ unwavering faith in their students. I even undertook a senior project that lead to me help to start and manage The West View Teen Newsroom that meets at the Glendale Library.
These are just a few of the opportunities I’ve had at SLCSE. With every healthy risk I took, I gained more self-esteem. With that, I opened myself to more opportunities for the future – opportunities I otherwise may never have taken.
I hope more people who attend SLCSE will have a similar experience, for I consider it invaluable.
Andre Montoya, 18, is a Glendale resident who helped create and facilitate The West View Teen Newsroom. He will attend the University of Utah in the fall.