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Commentary: End of year wrap-up

Guest photographer Kara DeGroot

Cate Vander Kooi is an “FCS Lifer” after spending 13 years on campus kindergarten through her senior year.

Four years ago 13 year old Cathryn (Cate) Vander Kooi entered the Peoples Church auditorium, hands shaking, stomach in knots. Her fear weighed heavy on her shoulders as she walked in and took a seat in the freshman section, looking around with wide eyes. Thoughts raced through her mind as she watched upperclassmen greet each other and teachers corral kindergarteners into seats.

What if I don’t make it to my class on time? What if I don’t make friends? What if the classes are too hard? High school loomed too large in my mind, it was too fast paced, too big, too difficult. What was a girl like me, maybe the most anxious girl in the world, doing someplace like here?

I remember thinking that I would never graduate, never make it through high school. To me, it wasn’t something to enjoy, but rather something to suffer through. As years passed, my outlook changed drastically. Nerves melted as I met teachers and started to invest in what Fresno Christian had to offer.

I quickly realized my strength lay in my academic achievements. Every assignment and test was a challenge, I did everything I could to get ahead. My freshman and sophomore years were dedicated to studying as I spent nights pouring over textbooks, eyes red from tiredness. The AP United States history class in particular pushed me beyond my limits. The work I took home drove me to live like a hermit in my room, I felt like I was drowning in assignments. When Kori Friesen pulled me aside to ask me if I needed more of a challenge, I nearly fell over. She supported me through every doubt that came into my mind, and I am so grateful for her guidance.

It truly was an invaluable experience. My writing skills improved, I got to be a part of an incredibly talented and amazing team, and now I get to boast that I have worked for a nationally ranked online newspaper. My only regret is that I didn’t join as a freshman and get the experience of improving my journalism skills over time. However, I know as I head off to college everything I’ve learned will have real world application. — Cathryn Vander Kooi

It was this academic passion that drove me to join journalism. The Feather always seemed to be doing something interesting, whether it was helping out with Kids Day, going to New York, or even just promoting school events. I had been interviewed a few times for some articles, but that was the extent of my participation. I had absolutely no interest in joining what seemed to be the most stressful class on the FC campus.

Julia Fikse | The Feather Online

While she enjoyed her FCS experience, Cathryn Vander Kooi says watching her mom Janet Vander Kooi teach 5th grade at Fresno Christian has inspired her.

However, life has a way of changing what you planned. My senior year I decided to attend a Feather meeting, and with the persuasion of some friends, I joined for my last year of high school. Although untimely, I haven’t looked back once. I have loved every minute, from spending time with my crazy adviser to the spontaneous events I got to attend.

It truly was an invaluable experience. My writing skills improved, I got to be a part of an incredibly talented and amazing team, and now I get to boast that I have worked for a nationally ranked online newspaper. My only regret is that I didn’t join as a freshman and get the experience of improving my journalism skills over time. However, I know as I head off to college everything I’ve learned will have real world application.

Having my mom work at my school was an unexpected blessing. She is my number one supporter in life, and having her by my side all these years has been absolutely incredible. Watching her teach 5th grade at Fresno Christian has inspired me, and she truly is the greatest mentor and teacher anyone could have. Out of all my experiences at Fresno Christian, I will miss having my Mom around the most.

Originally, I started Fresno Christian in third grade. Friends came and went, classes changed, and I began to grow. Now that I’m graduating, only a handful of the original elementary students remain. These are people I’ve seen change personalities, people who I took the Constitution test with, who played tag with me at recess and who will now walk across the stage alongside me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have known these people, and I know they are going to do great things in life.

In the Fall of 2018 I will be attending UC Santa Barbara and majoring in Political Science. My hope is to work for some sort of nonprofit organization, directly influencing underprivileged families in third world countries. I am, however, open to any and all possibilities that might come my way. Wherever God’s will takes me, I am willing to follow.

I truly am so thankful for everything that Fresno Christian has offered me. For better or worse I have spent a majority of my life here, and that’s something I don’t take lightly. I can’t even begin to express the gratitude I have for my teachers, friends and family who have shaped me into who I am today.

Journalism adviser Greg Stobbe always repeats his mantra, ‘You got this!’ when someone is assigned an article. It is now that I am on the brink of endless possibilities, that I truly feel that I got this. I am beyond excited and am looking forward to everything ahead of me!

Cate Vander Kooi will be attending UC Santa Barbara in August of 2018 to receive my four year degree.

For another senior commentary/reflections, read Senior Reflection: Mariana Fikse and/or Senior Reflection – Juliana Lozano. Readers might also enjoy Robert Foshee: Longtime multiple-sport campus coach, academic teacher.

Cathryn Vander Kooi can be reached via email and Twitter.

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