by Irene Ly

If you had asked me what I thought about my alma mater just a year ago, I probably would’ve given you a snarky comment. In my final column for the Raiders’ Digest as the editor-in-chief last year, I chose to write a tribute to the newspaper staff instead of to the school itself. The truth is that by my senior year, I had become much too cynical about J.E.B. Stuart High School and was focused on moving past the school’s walls onto something bigger and better. I certainly recognized the strengths and unique aspects of Stuart, but at the time it was a whole lot easier to just see what about the school bothered me.

In the blink of an eye, it’s now been a year since I graduated high school, and my perspective has become one much less tainted by cynicism. Having had so much time to let go of the trivial things that put Stuart on my bad side in the past, I can now focus on what’s truly special about my alma mater that cannot be depicted in statistics and data.

This became especially true when reading Theo’s final column for the Raiders’ Digest. I had never felt prouder of my school. I came to appreciate the extraordinary Stuart students with inspiring stories of defying odds and obstacles that I could not fully appreciate before because I was too involved with myself and my desire to move on to really look around and notice, and I applaud Theo for not being the apathetic person I was this same time last year.

Over the course of my freshman year of college, I read several articles about Stuart’s declining test scores, graduation rates, and poor teacher morale. With each published article, I became more upset at The Washington Post and other sources’ portrayal of Stuart as a failure because of a couple numbers, and neglecting to take the time to paint a broader and more accurate depiction of what we really are.

This week’s Post article was the tipping point for me, and I’ve decided to break my silence on the issue through the only way I know how, which is writing my own column. The reporter of the article paints yet another negative and misrepresented picture of Stuart. However, what makes it so terrible and heartbreaking is that the writer takes the one negative paragraph from Theo’s beautifully written, honest, and positive column and uses it completely out of context just to make it fit the one-sided angle he chose to take. It’s poor journalism, and it makes my blood boil.

Yes, we’re diverse, which the Post never fails to reiterate again and again and again. What they do fail to convey though is the spirit and heart of the school. In that diverse population are some of the most dedicated and caring teachers I have ever come across, as well as students who prove that hard work can and does pay off. But these are things that are never reported because they’re not straightforward and easy. They’re not numbers and they cannot be illustrated on graphs. People are much more likely to click on an article with a headline that reads “Stuart’s SAT scores takes yet another steep tumble” than “Stuart’s alumni praise the heart and spirit of the school.”

Yet this praise needs to be stated, and by anyone who cares enough to speak out. For all the times Stuart made me utter something cynical and sarcastic, it also made me a better and more open-minded person. That is the beauty of going to a diverse school. You learn to not only be knowledgeable and tolerate, but embracive of people from all walks of life. You learn that situations are rarely black or white, but that there are shades of gray. You learn that sometimes there are people out there that really do suck, but that there are also people out there who can and will give you hope.

To everyone at The Washington Post, say what you want about Stuart. But know that you can’t ruin my memory of a school that I wholeheartedly believe is worth fighting for. To Stuart alumni, whether you just graduated last year or 30 years ago, never forget that despite its imperfections, Stuart is a truly special place in ways numbers and even words cannot fully portray and should be forever appreciated.