Back at High School

Upon being offered the opportunity to work as Concordia’s grant writer, my initial response was something of an emotional rollercoaster.  

When I graduated from Concordia in 2017, I barely made it out alive — quite literally. During sophomore year, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease after a prolonged and severe decline in health. Not six months later, I “celebrated” the start of junior year by being hit by a car during cross country practice. And while I lay comatose in the hospital, two of my Concordia classmates passed away in separate instances, all within the span of a week.  

Needless to say, high school was not exactly the best four years of my life. And though I hope no one had the same experience as me, I hardly think I’m the only one who feels this way. Many of us, for one reason or another, think back on our high school years and grimace — or at least say a silent prayer of thanks that we’ve grown up a bit since then.

Concordia had always been good to me, but it was a good place where bad things happened to me. As a result, I was often plagued by something doctors call mixed feelings.

Fast forwarding through some sleepless nights and pounds of prayers, (spoiler alert!) I ultimately decided to accept the job offer. There were no spiritual dramatics behind my decision; instead, God simply shut other doors of opportunity and gently ushered me back to the very last place I ever thought I would voluntarily return.

And so, back to high school I went.

If we were in a movie, this is the part of the story where I’d dress up as a student and get to redo high school, only this time as the super cool character I had never been. I’d ace all the tests, breakdance at prom, and be an undercover adult masquerading as a teenager.

But instead of donning a uniform and signing up for classes, I started in the new role of grant writer. Tasked with building the position from the ground up, I awkwardly tried to navigate what it meant to be a staff member in a place where I had only ever been a student.

I was not a teenager anymore, but it also didn’t feel quite right to call faculty members by their first names and consider them colleagues. It didn’t help that at first I was repeatedly mistaken as a student, nearly reprimanded for being out of dress code (ah, the flashbacks). On the daily, I’d pass beneath the dauntingly huge grins of my classmates on the 2016 State-winning football team (seriously, that picture is ginormous) and remember the win like it was yesterday. I’d walk into the faculty-staff lounge, feeling like I was doing something illegal. Out in the hallways during class? Right to jail, right away. Using the fancy staff bathroom? Jail.

I kept waiting for someone to put me back in my place as a student, but no one ever did. I guess that means I am an ADULT now! (ish)

Having been Concordia’s grant writer for nearly a year, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t stop and think how peculiar it is to be back at high school. Despite this undeniable strangeness, in the end my return been therapeutic in many ways.

I’ve gotten to rewrite my Concordia story and make new memories that overshadow the old ones. I’ve talked with students, flexing my new “back in my day…” muscle (I see why adults say this so much — it’s a lot of fun). I’ve gotten to peek behind the curtain, so to speak, and work on the business side of operating a high school (it’s a lot more difficult than you think it is). I’ve connected with former classmates and coaches I never expected to never see again (and I can say with complete honesty that these were nice lil’ reunions). I’ve watched the kids during passing period or on their way to lunch, smiling to myself because they are at the very beginning of their lives, and they have no idea how good things get once you grow into yourself.

And no matter how stressful grant writing might get, things brighten up after I consider one thing:

Ah, what a beautiful day it is to not be in high school anymore.

I much prefer being an adult at high school. 

Alaina Stellwagen,
Grant Writer