A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Voices from the Classroom: Ludlow High School junior reflects on going to WKU’s Gatton Academy

By Grace McClurg
Ludlow High School/Gatton Academy

During the past few weeks, my living room has become an entwinement of both my past and future. Elementary school photos look down on boxes of bedding intended for my new life at Gatton Academy. I will be attending Gatton this fall, an early college entrance program where students live and take classes at Western
Kentucky University’s campus. As this summer dwindles away, I can’t help but wonder what has brought the little girl on the living room walls to this new future at Gatton.

Grace McClurg

When reflecting on what has prepared me for my new school, the experiences that I am most grateful for are the ones that have taught me my understanding of success. In the past, I have driven myself based on an obsession with a distorted idea of success. My idea of success, and therefore my motivation, was dependent on validation. My grades became a source of personal worth, with each percent feeling as an embodiment of my value. I only determined my success with final grades, rather than considering the value of effort and thoughtfulness.

When I approached life with this mentality, I was never fulfilled.

Accomplishments were fleeting as my mind raced to the next form of validation. I couldn’t reach my full potential when my concern was placed on external goals, rather than on internal motivation.

However, my experiences at Ludlow High School have altered my perspective. The educators at Ludlow have completely changed my approach to productivity. By creating genuine relationships with my teachers, I have learned that my value to others is not determined by accomplishments, but on who I am sincerely.

This detachment of worth from my motivation has made my education more rewarding and fulfilling. When I succeed on an assignment, I feel accomplished, rather than relieved. I also have learned what I value through failures. I am not an athletic runner and this has left me heartbroken in the past during cross country and track. I felt like a disappointment to everyone when I would stumble across finish lines last.  

However, because of the support of my teammates and coaches, I learned to value effort and the process of running. I fell in love with the feeling of pushing myself not for reward, but for the sake of internal improvement. Cross country and track allowed me to appreciate the actual content of my life, rather than viewing it as an endless list of pressing goals. I carried this into the classroom and became mesmerized by the content of what my teachers taught.

My understanding of success is defined by sincerity and thoughtfulness, rather than status. I have learned to frame my work ethic around the value of hard work. I no longer strive for the appearance of intelligence, but I push myself because of my genuine passion for learning and my desire to put effort into all that I do in life. I pour all of my heart and passion into my goals. When I base my motivation internally, my work becomes fulfilling and I can reach my full potential.  

Ludlow has taught me this invaluable lesson that I know has prepared me for Gatton Academy and all my future endeavors. Though the boxes filling my living room can be intimidating, I trust in the growth of the little girl on the wall for her next adventure.

Grace McClurg is a junior at Ludlow High School and Gatton Academy. She plans on studying neurobiology. She enjoys writing and painting in her spare time.

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  1. Melissa Currin says:

    So very proud of you, Grace! We miss you in our halls but can’t wait to hear how things are going at WKU/Gatton!!

  2. Becky Jones says:

    Nicely done, Grace! We’re proud of you!

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