My name is Veena Tharayil, and I recently became one of Maplewood Academy’s most recent Alumni after graduating this past May 26th, 2013. One day last summer my parents sat me down and told me that the next morning the three of us would be going to take a tour of a boarding school about an hour and a half away. My parents had various reasons for wanting to send me away, including my not-so-good grades, my rebellious “I-already-know-everything-so-I-don’t-need-you-to-tell-me-what-do” teenage attitude, and my illegal bad habit (earlier that summer, I came up with the marvelous idea to smoke marijuana). They had called many different Catholic and Charter schools but didn’t find one that they felt was right, so I continued at my public school.
My mom had previously heard of Maplewood through a co-worker. The co-worker talked about how her nephew, who was in a similar situation as me, went to Maplewood and changed for the better. I remember crying in my room after they told me we were going there to take the tour. The next day we arrived at the school and met Mr. Ellstrom, our tour guide. He was really nice and showed us around, explaining a lot about the school. After asking a billion questions, my parents decided that I was attending the school in the fall.
August 19, 2012 was registration day. I felt kind of awkward being a new student as I observed people hugging and greeting each other with excitement. It seemed like everyone knew each other. I knew no one. Through the registration process I met a lot of the faculty who greeted my parents and me with smiles and were very helpful. One of them was Ms. Ketchum who helped us figure out my class schedule. We also met Dean Mally who welcomed me to the dorm with friendliness and tried to make me feel comfortable. While waiting in line for the office, twins, Karina and Kiara Lee-Way were the first students to introduce themselves to my parents and me. They were very sweet. Later that day, I met more students like Abner Campos, who helped carry my things to the dorm; Brittany Houchins, a sweet girl who he introduced me to in the lobby; Mary Anne, a junior who showed me her closet while she was helping me understand the dress code; and Bailey Dehning who later invited me to go to supper with her. Earlier that day, I remember going to lunch with my parents. I was so used to delicious homemade Indian food with real meat. I took one bite of the fake meatball then looked at my mom and said, “Are you really going to leave me here?” She was just eating away and said, “I think it’s good.” It took me a while to get used to the food and living in the dorm, but each day I got more and more comfortable at MWA.
One of my favorite classes was Bible, which was surprising since I used to go to Sunday School classes at church but was never a huge fan. I found myself wanting to know so much more and asking a lot of questions. Thankfully Mrs. Vigil, my Bible teacher, was kind and open to answering them all. I would randomly pop in her office sometimes just to ask her questions and she was always willing to take time to explain things to me even though she was a very busy lady. In one year, I learned more about God than I did my whole life, even though I was raised in the Catholic Church. I was exposed to Jesus in a whole new way like I’ve never experienced before.
There were a lot of experiences that I went through that inspired me and helped strengthened my faith. These included listening to different guest speakers such as Dr. Tim Riesenberger and Willie Ramos, who both had incredible stories to share; having a prayer answered that I never expected; hearing other students’ testimonies; going to Phil Wickham’s concert at Union during basketball tournament; and having questions answered the very next day during a Bible class or at church during Pastor Wayne’s sermons.
At MWA I tried new things such as basketball, volleyball, and band. So many memories were created including going to North Star Camp in the beginning of the year with the whole school, falling off a canoe with Kiara during senior experience, dancing in Briggitte’s room, senior prank night, senior benefit, and so much more! I made new friends who I could pray with, have Bible studies with, and talk about God with.
Like any high school, Maplewood isn’t perfect and honestly, it wasn’t always easy for me being there. I did have my moments where I wanted to get out. However, overall there was so much more positive than negative, and I’m thankful that God led me there. There is a lot I will miss about MWA. I will miss going to Swanee’s house with some of the senior girls to hang out and make brownies, stalking Ms. Ketchum all the time to get Pre-Calc help, visiting in Mr. Bacon’s office almost every day, getting candy from Mr. Okimi’s office, volunteering at the nursing homes with Ms. Cummings and other students, and having Mrs. Piersaniti as a laid-back boss. I will miss having worship with Mrs. Morrison in the beginning of A&P. I will miss going over to Mr. and Mrs. Liepke’s house. I will miss seeing the students every day. I will miss playing basketball with the Lady Huskies. I will miss Hutch church a lot. I could go on and on.
Things are so different now. My parents are glad they sent to MWA. They say I’ve really turned around and that I’ve become more appreciative and respectful to them. I’m a lot more spiritual, my grades are better, I pray more, and instead of fighting with my parents we get along just fine now. Before MWA, I would never go out of my way to open the Bible. Now, I read it every day. Last summer I had friends who would want to smoke. This summer, I have friends who encourage me spiritually. Abner Campos started a youth church this summer that Krista Froemming and I go to every Saturday that we can. Charles Kimaiga and I became prayer partners. We have a system of reading a chapter from one book of the Bible every morning and at night before we sleep, and we text each other a Bible verse from each chapter after we read it to hold each other accountable. My parents, extended family, and family friends prayed a lot for me. I think Maplewood was the answer to their prayers.
This fall I will be attending Union College. I decided Union would be better for me education-wise, and being in a spiritual environment would help me continue to grow in Christ. I hope to continue my walk with Jesus, get educated, and be successful in a good career so I can donate money back to MWA in return for what I got out of it. With the Holy Spirit, I know it can happen. If God wasn’t the gracious and merciful God He is, I wouldn’t have had this experience and be who I am today. I will always be thankful for that.
By: Veena Tharayil
e-TNL Staff: Jeff Wines, Director; Carol Lyons, Editor; Melisa Mauk, Website-editor
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