By Frederick Rodulfo
Senior, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School
I was an enrolling freshman in 2014 when a massive fire broke out on the campus of Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School. For 40 minutes, battalions from the Los Angeles Fire Department battled the flames using high-pressure hoses and hook-and- ladder trucks. Fortunately no students or teachers were hurt, but the roof, 11 classrooms, the main office, and all furniture, equipment, and fittings were destroyed.
The 2014 fire at ASLA (Photo Credit: KTLA)
So the anticipation for our high school reunion (pun intended), has been nearly four years in the making.
Since then, ASLA has been physically divided, with the main campus being restricted to serving only freshman and sophomore students while the Henry Clay Learning Complex was able to accommodate 11th and 12th grade students. The experience has been nothing short of atypical.
A High School Without Hierarchy
Being on a divided campus has had its pros and cons. Fortunately, my high school experience lacked the stereotypical high school hierarchy, where upperclassmen think themselves superior because of their age. Instead, I formed strong bonds with all my peers. It is because of this physical division that I know all of the students in my senior class so well. That doesn’t happen in traditional large high schools, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
But the problem lies in that upperclassmen are supposed to guide you, mentor you, and help mold you into a brighter mind. That experience was stripped from us by the fire. Reuniting in a new building as a senior, how am I to live up to an expectation of guiding underclassmen with no previous example? What do I tell that freshman who’s barely getting by, and how do I motivate and encourage them to keep moving forward?
For now, these feelings of uncertainty cloud my mind, but I have no doubt that the Panther within me will know the answers when the opportunity presents itself. In many ways, the unintended consequences of a divided school is the absence of feeling responsible for those younger than you.
You don’t necessarily conduct yourself in a manner designed to teach the class beneath you when you rarely see them. That feeling of responsibility will soon rush into the minds of our upperclassmen, and I’m sure that my fellow Panthers and I are up for the challenge.