Ready for my life after high school

Maya Shelton-Davies during her semester at Conserve School in 2013.

ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, I was dorm-room shopping.

I was moving out of the house for the fall semester.

Saying goodbye to my parents.

Meeting my new roommate.

Don’t be mistaken – I’m not describing my experience going to college. I won’t do that until this fall.

These are all things I experienced while still in high school.

When it came to preparing for life after high school, I did some regular things most people say are important to do before graduating. I played basketball and soccer, I quit basket­ball and soccer to join the mock trial team, I joked around, and I stuck with things I was passionate about.

I also did a couple more unortho­dox things to better set myself up for the future. For instance, I’ve spent the past five years reporting for ThreeSixty Journalism and learning more about journalism as a future career path.

However, what has prepared me most for college, and life in general, was the four months I spent away from home in 2013 at Conserve School.

Conserve School is a semester-long boarding school way up north in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. As far as I know, the unincorporated town near the border of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has nothing to do with the butter company. What Conserve does do, though, is bring 60 new stu­dents from all over the country to its beautiful campus each semester to enjoy and learn about conservation, ecology and sustainability.

I was in the school’s seventh semester as a junior in 2013, and this fall, the students in semester No. 11 will arrive at Conserve. It makes me feel kind of old, even though only two years have passed since I first arrived on campus. Looking back, if there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I left that place as a better, more adventurous person.

Even though I feel journalism is my true calling, I always have been a passionate advocate for environ­mental-friendliness and conservation of wild places. Conserve School was a great fit for me because of its sustainability-centered curriculum and its focus on environmental stewardship. It wasn’t hard to be able to thrive there.

However, at Conserve, I faced obstacles, too. Throughout the semester, I ran into more trouble than I thought I would in manag­ing my time and doing homework. It’s such a cliche to say that, but it wouldn’t be a cliche if it weren’t true.

Living on more than 1,200 acres in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, with 60 people who I grew really close with – some more than others – came with its obvious distractions. I mean, who in their right mind would sit and write a paper when they have the option of spending the evening kayaking with friends, or staying out to see the Aurora Borealis?

I know college will come with its fair share of distractions as well. As a freshman this fall at the University of St. Thomas, I’ll have everything the Twin Cities offers nearby, as well as new friends who may draw me away from doing what I need to do. This time around, though, I feel more comfortable going into it. I have a better idea of how to prioritize everything I want to do while stay­ing on top of schoolwork, reporting for TommieMedia (the university’s student-produced news website) and working.

Also, there will definitely be more responsibility in college than at Conserve. I know that. But because of my experience, the new-found independence that some students feel won’t come as a shock to me. Transitioning into college feels natural.

Leaving home for a semester also helped me come into my own. Not only did I build substantially on my confidence, but also I built on my independence. Now, I truly feel pre­pared to live away from home again.

Also, it’s because of Conserve School that I’ll be a part of UST’s Environmental Sustainability Learning Living Community this school year. I’m truly excited for all of the sustainability work that will come from this opportunity.

Of course, I won’t be the only one making a transition this fall. My par­ents will no longer have me around the house. The good news is, they’ve already been through this.

Two years ago, they were right there with me, going dorm-room shopping and helping me move in before saying goodbye.

My mom cried for a couple of weeks after I flew the coop. But now, she’s ready. As I prepare to leave again, she says it’s a lot easier to let me go having already gone through it once before.

Beginning this newer, bigger chap­ter in life, I can honestly say that I’m ready, too.