Perspective: Student Swap by Morgan Gonsoski & Victoria Miller
If you’re reading this, I’m sure that you’ve heard of Elkhart’s plans to restore Memorial and Central to the former “Elkhart High School” in upcoming years. If you haven’t, then welcome to Elkhart, and to one of the biggest changes we’ve yet to see.
With plans for unity set forth, how are two of the biggest Indiana high school rivals supposed to come together as one whole student body? From the perspective of a student, this seems nearly impossible. Our biggest rivals, pitted against us for 45 years, now our classmates? The goal isn’t completely intangible, but are we too different?
Memorial and Central’s student publications, GENESIS and the Blazer Pennant, decided to team up by swapping roles for a day. Two GENESIS members, and two Pennant members would take the other’s place for a day. Our classes would reflect that of the average senior, filled with AP classes, student group meetings, and the lunchtime rush, all usual parts of our days at our respective schools, in hopes of gaining better insight into each other’s daily lives and school atmosphere.
My name is Morgan Gonsoski, and I am a senior at Memorial. I’ve made my way through high school surrounded by rumors and news alike, all concerning the merger, but because of my age, I will not experience it firsthand. Elkhart will still be my home, with my family, friends, and community remaining here, even after I leave, but it will inevitably be different. The famous Memorial/Central rivalry, one that was pivotal in my time here, will no longer exist. We will be united.
As both a journalist and an Elkhart student, I began to wonder just how different we really were—Central and Memorial. Within my Memorial “bubble” I had never really taken the time to get to know our cross-town rivals. I could count on one hand how many times I had been to their campus and how many people that I knew there. The other side of town might as well have been the other side of the globe. But just how different could we really be?
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, my co-editor, Madison Ward, and I spent the day wrapped up in the usual Blazer activities: ticket sales and last-minute planning for their annual movie night, lunchroom announcements, the usual classroom busywork, and congested passing periods, not unique to a high school environment, but wherever you go, each has its own system. I won’t claim that I was able to learn and adapt to their system in a singular day, but this revelation did spark a much bigger one.
Throughout our day, the only reason I ever felt odd or even slightly off was because I had become so accustomed to my own routine at Memorial that any new school routine would have felt unnatural. Note: If you take anything from this piece, please have it be this statement: WE’RE NOT THAT DIFFERENT.
ID’s are required, so I found myself wearing my entire keychain around my neck all day. The dress code is slightly stricter, so I was no longer greeted by the familiar flash of black leggings during passing period. Advisory is an hour earlier, so though it may not seem like a half hour can make that much of a difference in a day, I found myself confused about times, unusually tired during fourth hour, and with an early appetite that left me with a grumbling stomach almost an hour earlier than normal. I found that there were only little things that set us apart, minor details that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t hold that much value. Our classes are virtually the same. The same curriculum, taught by well-rounded and engaged teachers, in a calm but academic classroom environment, with kids who were genuinely engaged. The lunchroom wasn’t any quieter or chaotic than usual, if anything, it almost mirrored our own noontime rituals. And, just like Memorial, throughout the day, the sense of respect each student had for another was felt in all environments.
The big picture? Though one school resides in Blazer nation, and one in Charger country, it may do us all some good to remember that we both reside in Elkhart.
October 17. 7:35 a.m.: Morning attendance was taken in my first hour class at Memorial, but neither my name—Victoria Miller—nor Madeline Congdon’s was called. It’s no wonder, as we were visiting seniors from Central High School, setting out to see what it would be like to spend a day in the life as one of our cross-town rivals.
Questions surrounding this “swap” continued to swirl in my mind. Would being a Charger for 7.5 hours compromise my Blazer identity? Would students there trash-talk my school? Would they drill me on whether Mr. B is truly a mosquito on a lightning bolt? And, most importantly, would they have crispitos at lunch?
In the midst of all this, all I could hear was Anna from The King and I singing “Getting to know you…and hoping that you like me.” But, I didn’t want to verbalize my thoughts and fears—after all, I wanted to come across as being poised and confident. Anything I said would surely reveal otherwise. So, I kept quiet and listened.
In observing, however, I discovered that kids are kids are kids—probably just the same on the other side of town as they are on the other side of the world. But, as with all “families,” there will always be some differences in “parenting” styles. At Memorial, one of the standing “pranks” students attempt is to hop on the Elkhart elk that presides over their Student Center, without getting caught by the administration. At Central, the wildest thing I’ve ever tried to do was get to the restroom without a pass. Heck, at Central, even the seniors get permission ahead of time for most of their senior pranks.
It’s not that Memorial students aren’t rule followers, but they are certainly more lax about a variety of situations. Every time I saw a girl in leggings without a longer top on, I could hear Mrs. Berheide on the PA saying, “Remember, girls, that we need to keep those behinds covered!” And, IDs? Well, let’s just say that students did not have to walk through a defensive line of administrators when entering the building. Not wearing my ID was an odd sensation that made me feel like I was always forgetting something. Oddly, though, as much as Memorial students enjoy their kick-back atmosphere, I discovered that I really do appreciate the boundaries and expectations set at Central. I guess that’s because, at heart, I’m a true Blazer. Although this is not Hogwarts, the sorting hat definitely chose appropriately for me!
I am not going to say that if I transferred to Memorial today I would be a well-rounded expert, because I wouldn’t. I have spent my entire high school career learning the tips and tricks of the trade. I was shaped into a Blazer and became a piece in their puzzle—a piece of Elkhart.
Each of our schools has its own character—that one crowded hallway, the quirky teacher everyone wants to hang out with, or the particular traditions. But, in so many other ways, the parts of the day are interchangeable, and I was comforted by the fact that, no matter how different we are, we drink from the same stream. We were born into the same family—Elkhart.We have challenging AP courses, dedicated teachers, and yes, crispitos.
My hope for the coming years is that when these two schools merge that the best of each school will be retained. That is what will truly make us a powerhouse. Then, it won’t matter who has the Mangy Lion. We will be linking arms to take on another rival. So look out, Penn. The Lion wakes tonight!
Elkhart. It’s the most obvious common factor between the both of us, and was seemingly the only similarity, but we realize now that it’s the one thing that unifies us. We are each high schools, filled with teenagers of all different types and personalities. We each have lunchtime ‘norms’ and advisory commotion. We each have our favorite teachers and school-wide traditions. But ultimately, without Elkhart uniting us, we would be yet another secondary in a sea of schools.
Instead, we have the opportunity to attend school in a city where so many are rooted within a singular school community, we just so happen to represent opposite sides of town. This is what makes us unique. Though different, we are all Elkhart, and the embodiment of its past, present, and certainly its future. Wherever we go, Elkhart will remain with us, memories of our famous rivalry included. Though our rivalry fostered healthy and unforgettable competition, together, we will stand with large community support all aimed towards one idea: Elkhart.
We each have our own school colors, mascot, teaching styles, personalities, and a whole city uniting us.
For a full look into each duo’s day at each school, look forward to the Blazer Pennant and GENESIS’s November issues, scheduled to be printed November 21.
Editor’s Note: Morgan Gonsoski is currently interning in the communication department at Elkhart Community Schools. Through her participation in Memorial’s GENESIS publication, the idea for a student swap was conceptualized. We are thrilled to share the talent, writing, and introspection of Morgan, as well as Madison Ward, with the community. Thank you to both for sharing the stories of their experience.