Hi! My name is Austin Christopher and I am a senior. Five years ago, I was skeptical, nervous and unsure about the prospect of attending St. Dom’s, feelings that are echoing in me now as I begin my college search. But because of the decision I made nearly four years ago, I find myself more prepared for my transition into society and a selective college. Now, let me tell you how I changed from a shy, public school student to the person writing to you now, ranked 13th in my class, and ready to graduate after four life-changing years.

As I mentioned, I attended a public school from kindergarten to eighth grade before coming to St. Dom’s. Until eighth grade, I had never even considered leaving my previous school system, and I had always assumed that I would graduate from that high school. But as my eighth grade year went on, and the standards fell in the local high school, my parents and I realized that the public school system wasn’t the place for me to advance my education.

We began to look at private high schools and prep schools in the area, but none seemed to fit my needs or my personality. Then we visited the St. Dom’s open house. Vividly, I remember my father and I racing back from a hockey game just so we could get there on time. I remember staring in awe at the beautiful campus and new buildings. I even remember listening to the seniors speak about how much they loved this school. But the thing I remember most from my visit to St. Dom’s, is how accommodating and helpful the teachers, tour guides, and students were. I remember Mrs. Olsen, my freshman English teacher, spending nearly 20 minutes talking to me about my favorite subject and showing me all the books we would read in the coming fall. Of all the schools I visited, I had never felt more at ease and comfortable than I did at St. Dom’s, and that was just at the Open House!

Mr. Boulet, the admissions director, then suggested I do a shadow day. Believe me, I was not looking forward to it! As much as I loved visiting the school on an open house basis, the idea of trailing someone all day in a place full of people I didn’t know was nerve-racking! But, once again, my skepticism was not needed. The shadow day alleviated all my questions, fears, and uncertainty about attending St. Dom’s. On the next day, when I returned to my public school I began looking at my surroundings. The disconnection and cliques among the students were more vivid, more pronounced. The unity I found on my shadow day at St. Dom’s was missing. In fact, I felt more at home during just one day here than I did when I returned to my old school!

Of course, as fall came around in 2009, the nerves built up again. I knew it would be hard transitioning from my public school background and I was beginning this transition knowing only one other student. I was, to say the least, a bit afraid. My fear lasted for about an hour. Very quickly I made friends with the hockey team, and all the students on the Augusta/Winthrop bus.

The academic change was, as I expected, tough, but believe me, it is a relief to know that the grade you receive is the grade you earned. The teachers here at St. Dom’s don’t just pass out A’s. They expect the highest from you and in turn, you can expect only the best out of them. Every single teacher in this school is ready and willing to give you help when you ask for it, and even willing to help you when you don’t ask for it!

But it’s what St. Dom’s has taught me outside of academics that has had the greatest impact on my life. At my old school, getting involved was never encouraged and clubs and extracurricular activities, besides sports, never appealed to me. In fact, before St. Dom’s, hockey was really my only outside activity. I guess you can also see why St. Dom’s was so appealing!

However, at St. Dom’s, I found that almost every single student was involved in some sort of club or group outside of school. Four years later, I am proud to say that I’m not only a varsity hockey goaltender, but I’m also a tennis singles player, the Varsity Club president, student ambassador, part of the National Honors Society, writer and sports editor of the school newspaper, and I represent St. Dom’s on the Student Athletic Advisory Council – not bad for a shy student from a public school! But the great thing about St. Dom’s is that there were many clubs I could have taken the opportunity to join; my list was never limited. There is something for everyone at this school, and that’s what makes St. Dom’s such a great community to be a part of.

Speaking about community, it is one of the core values that attracted me greatly to this school. On my shadow day, I couldn’t believe how cooperative, kind, and close-knit everybody was. Here, everyone knows everyone, and nobody is a stranger for long. St. Dom’s is like an extended family.

To the students at St. Dom’s, our teachers are more than just teachers, and I believe that is what has helped make me more successful in the classroom and what makes this community such a wonderful one. And, it extends from the teachers. St. Dom’s is a great athletic school, and our coaches are also part of the family. I’ve never felt like I belonged on a team more than I do playing St. Dom’s hockey.

All of our sports teams have prayer before and after each game, our coaches lead by example in every aspect of their lives. Our coaches understand the importance of achievement during our seasons, but they also emphasize achievement in all other avenues. I won’t be able to play hockey my entire life, no matter how far I take it, but I will always take with me the life lessons and experiences that my coaches have given me.

The choice of your high school is a very important decision. Ask questions, do your research, and be sure that whatever school you choose, it is the right fit for you. I can tell you personally that I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made as the bell rang at 2:10 on my shadow day four years ago. And if you only take one thing from reading this article, please remember this: You will only ever get out of school and life exactly what you put into it. You alone can make your high school journey a success, and St. Dom’s is the vessel that can, and will, bring you to that destination.