For former Notre Dame student, SHS was a better fit

October 2, 2014 — by Michelle Leung and Trevor Leung

Few visitors would describe Saratoga High School, with its prison-like design and gray lockers, as the most eye-catching campus in the world.

But when senior Claire Strickland first stepped on campus as a freshman shadowing current senior Rachel Hull, she connected to the atmosphere, classes and people so well that she decided to transfer from her own high school.

Few visitors would describe Saratoga High School, with its prison-like design and gray lockers, as the most eye-catching campus in the world.

But when senior Claire Strickland first stepped on campus as a freshman shadowing current senior Rachel Hull, she related to the atmosphere, classes and people so well that she decided to transfer from her own high school.

Strickland attended the more restrictive Notre Dame San Jose (NDSJ) during her freshman year before choosing to attend Saratoga High. Aside from the fact that Notre Dame is a private, Catholic, all-girls school and Saratoga High is a public, co-ed school, the two are also vastly different in their class sizes and curriculum, according to Strickland.

Notre Dame has small classes, a tight-knit community and an easily navigable campus, as opposed to Saratoga’s much larger community.

Another major difference was that Strickland had to attend religious courses each year at Notre Dame.

“I don't agree or disagree with Catholicism. I simply am not a very religious person,” Strickland said. “That made it harder for me to really thrive in the school.”

She thought it was interesting to learn more about Catholicism, but also said it seemed “unfair that the course was so strictly biased towards Catholicism instead of touching even slightly on other faiths.”

Physically, socially and academically, Strickland felt confined at the private school. The Notre Dame campus was closed off by walls and gates. In contrast, despite urban myths about the school being designed like a prison, Saratoga has a spacious campus that doesn't feel confined or closed-off in the slightest, said Strickland.

Because Strickland had moved from Los Gatos to Notre Dame solely for the academic rigor, she found it difficult to break into the well-established friend groups at Notre Dame that bonded through similarities like playing on the same sports teams or having the same religious faith. Worst of all, at Notre Dame, Strickland no longer felt excited about the subject she loved best: English.  

“[I] could feel my passion dwindling,” Strickland said. “I wanted to be surrounded by people who would motivate me to push my limits, and I finally found that here.”

For Strickland, the transfer has paid off. She loves the enthusiasm, support and teachers at Saratoga.

She said she appreciates how her teachers here feel like “real people.” She cites one incident in her junior year as a prime example. Strickland knew she wanted to take both AP Literature and AP Language, and not only did her English 11H teacher Amy Keys give her all the paperwork, but she also wholeheartedly supported Strickland’s decision to take both classes.

Strickland does find aspects of Notre Dame that she liked better, pointing to a “kickass quidditch team” and “inspiring language classes.”

At Notre Dame,  her French 2 teacher gave entire lectures in French about World War 2, never speaking a single English word the whole school year. She also counts Notre Dame’s less rigorous physical fitness requirements as a plus. While Notre Dame’s requirements involve only “enduring a semester of Zumba, Richard Simmons style,” Saratoga’s involve an extensive CrossFit program.

“I basically died when I transferred to Saratoga and was introduced to CrossFit,” Strickland said. “But at least now I can dangle convincingly from the pull-up bar.”

Strickland does not regret the decision to attend Saratoga. Strickland especially finds the school’s environment to be unusually positive and well suited to her preferences.

“Saratoga is everything I could have hoped for in a school,” Strickland said. “Our faculty is incredibly supportive, inspiring and innovative. Mr. Robinson's weekly emails are the sweetest things on the planet.” 

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