Sarah Schrader: Academy was the experience of a lifetime

Sarah Schrader

Sarah Schrader

It’s hard to believe that in just a week and a half, the best experience I have ever had will come to an end.

I first heard about the Gatton Academy of Math and Science shortly after moving to Bowling Green from Florida right in the middle of my eighth grade year almost five years ago.

As I became accustomed to my new home in Bowling Green over the following two years, I learned more about the academy from teachers, classmates and counselors. It sounded like an amazing opportunity — a unique chance to explore various college courses well beyond what my high school could offer, to live with other outstanding high school students in a newly renovated dormitory on WKU’s campus and most importantly to get a jump-start on my college career. 

I applied for and was accepted to the academy during my sophomore year of high school and persuaded my rather reluctant parents to let me essentially leave for college two years early. I arrived at WKU a week before the first day of classes in August 2009, along with about 60 or so new classmates, and dove into an experience that has been much more incredible and opened up more opportunities than I had ever imagined possible.

It would be a terrible understatement to say that I have learned a lot over these past two years at the academy. During my first semester, I learned through trial and error how to wake myself up each morning; being a bit overly conscientious, I even experienced a few moments of sheer panic along the way when I woke up halfway through my 8 a.m. class. 

In my first and subsequent semesters, I learned how to write a computer program, solve a differential equation, use an electron microscope, isolate genomic DNA from bacteriophage particles and prove that one is not, in fact, equal to two.

I joined Dr. Rodney King’s lab in the biology department, gaining valuable experience that strengthened my resolve to pursue a research career as a geneticist. I flew on eight airplanes over the course of three study abroad trips to various locations in China, where I was able to put into practice and greatly expand upon the Chinese language skills I had been (and am still) acquiring as a member of WKU’s new Chinese Flagship Program. 

All of these experiences and the many others I don’t have the space to mention no doubt helped me to successfully apply to several great colleges around the country, but in the end I chose to remain here at WKU to finish my undergraduate education. 

Although my time at the academy is quickly coming to a close, I know that the outstanding people I have met and the incredible experiences I have had will stay with me forever. When I walk up and receive my high school diploma on May 14, I know that because of these experiences I will be able to turn and face my future and all that it holds with confidence.