What does it mean to be a Wootton Patriot?


When it came to spirit and pride, I was woefully lacking before I came to this school. I felt that school spirit was only meant for student government members, future fraternity bros and perky, pom-pom waving characters on exaggerated high school-themed TV shows. This attitude was evident throughout my childhood and early adolescence; when prompted with an animated “We’ve got spirit, yes, we do,” my very edgy friends and I would respond, “We have no spirit whatsoever!” I understand how cheesy this following statement sounds, but all of that changed when I came to this school as a freshman. I quickly learned what it meant to be a true Wootton Patriot.
Being a Patriot means indulging in a bizarre, esoteric sense of school spirit. Instead of idolizing quarterbacks or naming valedictorians, we crown League of Legends champions and rejoice in banjo-playing environmentalists at SGA assemblies. We drape ourselves in BBQ Club T-shirts adorned with the punny names our best friends chose for us. We come out to Coffeehouse every semester to lounge on couches in the Commons and listen to our friends and teachers sing indie songs.
Being a Patriot means having immense freedom that we do not even recognize until we are exposed to other ways of student life. I was talking to a friend from Churchill about the marijuana-themed article that was published in an issue of last year’s Common Sense, and he was absolutely shocked that the school would let us publish such a thing. Leave it to our faculty to trust us so much that we can disparage administrative decisions and discuss the reality of drugs and alcohol without a trace of censorship. From those controversial articles to the live coverage on the morning announcements, we have a remarkable level of freedom of speech, assembly and the press.
Being a Patriot means passionately rivaling Churchill, a school so similar to ours in academics and demographics that we honestly have no reason to hate it except for the fact that, well, it’s Churchill. We all know that Bulldogs pour their milk in their cereal bowls first and show up in the front row of every Nickelback concert.
Being a Patriot means enduring countless homework projects, college applications and mental breakdowns — all with the help and support of your friends, who are all in the exact same boat as you are. It means that you will graduate more prepared for college and the working world than the vast majority of high schoolers. It means that you might want to give up and become an exotic dancer by the middle of your calculus test, but as you near graduation, you’ll realize that every drop of blood, sweat and tears has been worth it.
Being a Patriot means simultaneously having some of the best teachers in the country and experiencing the full range of teaching styles whether you like it or not. You’ll have a teacher who drifts off onto tangents about international romance, a teacher who bangs your desk with a gavel whenever you fall asleep in class and a teacher who yells at you to look at her left eyebrow to get your attention — sometimes all during the same semester.
Being a Patriot means experiencing the most jubilant highs and deepest lows that life has to offer within four years. It means sobbing happy tears as you lift up the golden trophy from your swim team’s meet and spontaneously embracing your very alarmed history teacher when you get your first college acceptance. But it also means wandering through halls cloaked with the vestiges of heartbreak and loss, missing Dr. Doran with every fiber of your being and letting your best friend’s tears soak through your shirt after yet another death in the community. It means feeling nostalgic for Rock the Vote and Arshum’s Weather Funcast even if you actually experienced neither one. It means being consumed by spirit and ambition, sorrow and joy.
As I write this article in the first semester of my senior year, right after sending out three applications to leave this place that looks like a happy, nerdy Cold War prison, I still cannot entirely put into words what it means to be a Wootton Patriot. It’s not something that you articulate; it’s something that you feel, something palpable in the tense but cooperative air. Despite the occasionally dysfunctional air conditioning, the copious homework and the suspicious water fountains, we will all miss Wootton. And perhaps that grateful nostalgia that we all will feel as soon as graduation rolls around is the essence of the Patriot experience. But what do I know? Ask me again after graduation.