Before entering the 9th grade, I received a letter inviting me to take part in a program called The Center. The Center was a set of classes consisting of the humanities. If I chose to participate I would spend my freshman, sophomore, and junior years in advanced English and Social Studies classes.
When I was in elementary school, I was invited to take part in a special class called "Plato," named after the ancient Greek dude. Of course, I had no idea at the time that's who it was named for. In fact, I assumed it had something to do with Play-Doh. Not sure why they'd want me for an advanced class in elementary school when that's what I thought it was. The point is, I turned it down. I thought that, by joining up with a special class, I'd have to give up hanging out with the friends I'd come to be close to in my last few years of school. Looking back, I wish I had joined up. I'm not sure how different my school experience would have been had I taken those advanced classes, but I'm sure I would have managed just fine with new friends.
So when that similar opportunity came along in high school, I took it. The Center classes introduced me to a larger challenge than I would have faced in typical English or Geography classes. There were certain books that the students needed to read and report on. There were certain activities that students were expected to take part in. And there were volunteer hours that were required of students.
I always thought it was kind of funny to have forced volunteer work. Seems kind of like slave labor. But it was actually a good thing. I spent the better part of my volunteer hours working for the local public library. Mostly I would shelve books and scrape due date stickers off the backs. That summer before the freshman year I helped out with a children's program which turned out to be a lot of fun.
The Center also afforded participating students the opportunity to go on awesome field trips. In the fall of that 9th grade year, we took a trip to Jonesborough, Tennessee for the annual Storytelling Festival. All these years later, I look back on that trip as an awesome experience and have always said I'd like to go to the festival again. I have yet to make the return trip.
In the Center classes I was able to make new friends with people that I never would have met had it not been for those classes. For all of the difficulties I faced in the classwork, the benefits were definitely worth it.