The Beauty of Not Having to Worry

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By Jessica Ramirez '10

From the Fall 2011 Caller

When I think of my 12 years at Catlin Gabel, I remember mornings running around on the castle-like playground, the little house in the Fir Grove, 12-minute runs on the track on hot days, spending Middle School Breakaway in Seattle, performing HMS Pinafore with a thick layer of makeup smeared on my face, rainy days spent in the library with the beautiful tall ceiling, hopping out of the yellow school bus at the Expo Center to sort piles of pants and shirts, and many one-on-one meetings with teachers. Now I’ve been asked to talk about financial aid at this school. The truth is I never gave much thought to how much it cost to give me my seat in the classroom every day. I had no time to think about it; I had to read Sir Gawain and think of a thesis for an essay, and understand Euclid for the math quiz the next day, and then I had cross country practice after school.
It may seem as if I wasn’t appreciative of all the money that was donated for me. However, that is the paradoxical beauty of financial aid; I didn’t have to worry about the money. Instead, I focused on the most important part of attending school, my classes. I carried around and read through piles of books, some of which were very expensive, and I was lucky to not have to give up anything or scramble to cover the costs. Instead, I sat down and read them. Although I didn’t think about the cost often, I am most definitely thankful to the people who financed my education. It wasn’t until this last summer that I really thought about the costs of running a school like Catlin Gabel. I worked on campus in summer programs and spent the rest of summer working in facilities. Many people make a living working at Catlin Gabel through teaching, maintaining, directing, planning, and just getting done the stuff that needs to be done. And all the collective work results in a school that moves students forward.
I never thought of anything as unattainable because I wasn’t as wealthy as many of my peers. In fact, I never thought much about how much they had and how much this was in comparison to myself. The social differences in a single school add to the value of financial aid, and the range of family income varied so extraordinarily within the school community. I can’t speak for others, but I think that difference in social class doesn’t register as a significant part of life at Catlin Gabel. Part of that may be the academic rigor that keeps students busy with school, but it’s also the self-confidence found in all the student body, including the financial aid kids. We saw each other as peers in the classroom, and outside of it some of us became friends.
Now I’ve left Catlin Gabel, and I think fondly upon the beautiful campus, sweet teachers, and strong friendships. But the school gave me even more than that. It gave me the opportunity to continue on to college and the critical skills to find what I want and then work for it. Catlin Gabel gave me a jump-start to whatever comes afterward, and the people who contribute to it financially made and continue to make a difference in what I’ve had the opportunity to do in my life. Thanks.
Jessica Ramirez ’10 was the recipient of financial aid from the Hawley Family Endowed Scholarship Fund. She is in her second year at Macalester College