9th Grade: Identity

Who am I? 

I am Jaime Christmas and am a senior at Science Leadership Academy. I live in Fairmount and have lived in Philadelphia my whole life. I have many different interests ranging from musical theatre to volleyball. I began my schooling career at Friends Select, a private Quaker school in center city. I attended school there from kindergarten to fifth grade. As you’re developing these years are fairly significant. Learning the basics creates the foundation for how you interpret information that is fed to you in years to come. I absolutely adored going to school here. Because tuition is expected of attending students and because it is also a privately funded institution, the resources that were provided were insurmountable. This unfortunately isn’t available to the majority of students in Philadelphia no matter what the age. What I learned during these six years besides the classic elementary schooling was primarily about being a member of your community, giving back, making friendships and of course peaceful resolutions in order to stay true to the traditional Quaker 

values. I have countless happy memories from this place and believe that the way the students are taught here, to be vital parts of society no matter what their endeavors entailed is crucial to inspire fascination in a student. The next school I attended didn’t seem to always convey these values to their pupils. After I graduated from Friends Select I went on to attend J.R. Masterman Middle School from 6th to 8th. The memories are vague but I remember not having the best time there. The rules and teachers were strict and there wasn’t much room for free thinking.


Masterman is known for being the best school in the state. It produces academically talented students that do immensely well  in various areas, but especially excel when it comes to test taking. Masterman’s vision consists of a “multicultural, welcoming community of learners that engages academically talented students in grades 5-12 in advanced intellectual study.” This is great for the student that’s already a great test taker but that’s the extent to which Masterman is able to determine a student’s excellence. When I read this it doesn’t strike me as a way to inspire young minds. It only gave me the impression that they’re ability to mold a student into a better version of themselves fell short because they were only accepting the best of the best in their terms. Masterman is a selection-effect institution. They already have a general idea of what they want their students to look like. This is the way some of the top universities are run. Although this might work for some people I believe students are more than their tests and that’s exactly what the message Science Leadership Academy communicates to the public.


When I first heard about SLA all I knew about it was that you recieved your own laptop. I learned that instead of taking tests we did projects that finalized what we learned known as benchmarks. This changed my life. That’s enough to make any kid want to attend school but I wasn’t aware of all the benefits that came along with it. When I interviewed in 8th grade I brought in a project and talked about what you learned from the project and what it means to you. The importance of putting a face to the application is stressed at SLA because they make it a priority of all students. Leaving Masterman was the greatest decision I ever made. I wouldn’t say I was completely miserable but it was a common emotion that I felt on various occasions. I missed the atmosphere of Friends Select, the feeling of being apart of a caring community where the passion of the students was palpable.



The second I entered the building of SLA the bright colors and the energy of everyone was enough to make me want to go there. Because it’s such a small school you know everyone and everyone knows you; this could be a good or bad thing depending on how you treat it. By attending school here I was getting back to the values that were made evident at Friends Select. One very important one was self expression. The core values at SLA give you the resources to learn in a way that best fits you, but the laptop doesn’t hurt either. They enable you to open your mind to new ideas and not just to the ones fed to you from a textbook. I’ve discovered so much about myself from going here for the past four years. They haven’t always been the happiest memories because growing up is never easy but SLA has created the best environment for me to try new things in.

How do I interact with the environment?

Like I said previously, I’ve never lived anywhere else besides Philadelphia, but my environment doesn’t just consist of my city. It consists of my school, my home, my extracurricular activities, and most importantly my community of people. I’ve had various different interests over the years and it’s always been difficult for me to commit to one seriously. This is something that I try to challenge about myself everyday when I try something new. SLA has helped me become more involved with my community. In 9th grade when group work would be assigned at SLA there would always be that one person with constant ideas flooding out of them; this person was generally the leader. I’m a very shy person. I’ve never been much of an extrovert and tend to stick to myself unless confronted. Although I was helpful during projects I never took the initiative to take control of what was happening. Be an influential person to inspire everyone in my group to do great work that interested them. This side of me has changed drastically over the past couple of years and that’s all thanks to SLA’s core values. It has given me a process of thinking that never fails.

Whenever I’m given a task I complete it to the best of my abilities.


How does the environment affect me?

I’m a very impressionable person so whatever environment I’m currently in is bound to have a huge impact on me either in a positive or negative way. Though, being aware of this characteristic I obtain makes it all the more easy to maintain. When I’m aware of it I can accurately determine when I need to make a change. At Masterman I think it’s safe to say that I fell into the wrong crowd; I stopped doing my work and basically lost any interest I might’ve had in school at all. That all changed once I left. Going to SLA made me excited to learn again. Everyday when I went to school I would see something new being created or explored and become inspired to do the same.


Capstone season is always an interesting thing to witness as an underclassmen. You get to see all of the seniors become engaged in topics that they themselves have chosen and are so moved by. I would always take this energy and put it to some of my own work. Being in such a progressive school has allowed me to take on new challenges that I wouldn't have originally considered.

When I’m out in the world and hearing about current events, especially today, it makes it difficult to stay positive. It also makes it incredibly difficult at times when you feel as if you don’t really have a say or a big of an effect on your larger community; but simply being one member of a bigger group makes all the difference. This is why collaboration is a core value. The idea is stressed that you shouldn’t have to do it alone and you don’t have to.