Saturday, February 17 , 2018, 1:44 pm | Fair 65º


‘Lifer’ Andrew McCaffery Reflects on the Laguna Experience

Small school helps foster big dreams and lasting memories

People say that great things come in small packages. They also say one is supposed to avoid using clichés in writing, but since these are my final published remarks as an active Owl, certain rules can be forgotten. Forgive me, Ms. Nordgaarden.

Laguna Blanca is a small school, and its students never let themselves forget this fact.

Andrew McCaffery on a fourth-grade field trip to the Santa Barbara Mission.
Andrew McCaffery on a fourth-grade field trip to the Santa Barbara Mission.

Unfortunately, this remembrance is usually of the wrong kind — one is bound to encounter a lunchtime cacophony of complaints and despairing sighs over our claustrophobic environment. These jabs, although they may seem commonplace, are possibly the most ill-conceived notions a Laguna student can assume.

Sure, our football field may be miniature and our prom not MTV-worthy, but these are not the factors on which one should base his or her high school experience. Laguna’s cozy size should instead be remembered as a gift, or a leg-up. In my case, it was the reason I stayed for high school.

I have been a Laguna student since 2000, when I was in kindergarten with Ms. Diebold, for the second time. My first kindergarten was at The Howard School, which was housed on the current Laguna Blanca Lower School campus until the new millennium. I was forced to repeat due to my mere 5½ years of age, and the supposed intelligence and maturity levels associated with that age were deemed insufficient for a first-grade student. It took two years to prove this decision wrong; I subsequently skipped the second grade and joined the third grade (and Class of 2012) in the fall of 2002.

I had two great years of wearing uniforms, playing capture the flag with Mr. Robataille and performing real musicals with Ms. Laza. Back then, the Lower School put on shows such as Treasure Island and Oliver Twist, rather than the current curriculum-tailored show. Then, we moved to the Hope Ranch campus.

For my classmates, this was an exciting return journey, for they were the last kindergarten class in Hope Ranch. For me, it was fresh. My fantastic middle school experience was largely the result of one man, Mr. Eli Buchanan. Yes, to me, he is still Mr. B. From the playoffs and orchestra-hierarchy in fifth and sixth grade, to the movie-making and original songwriting in seventh- and eighth grade band, I was consumed by Mr. B’s program — and, as a somewhat uncoordinated, not-yet-comfortable-in-my-body middle school boy whose athletic capabilities had yet to develop, the stage gave me a place to shine.

When it came time to consider high school, my itching to play football was tied with my love of performing as my greatest anticipation. At Dos Pueblos, my alternate to Laguna Blanca, it would not be possible to split my time on the gridiron with my time on stage. This brings us back to the size of our school; while some may scoff at the thought of a 200-student high school, I am so very thankful for it.

The relatively small population allows for unmatched personalization and attention. Here, teachers and administrators are more than willing to accommodate a student’s activities, aspirations and greatest dreams. All of this catering was accompanied by the heavier courseload, elevated atmosphere and increased academic pressure of high school in general.

I continued my music, as singer and guitarist for the Stage Band, and played football, at least until my knee exploded senior year, but high school was so much more than songs and sports. The four years were a grueling but enjoyable formative process in creating who I am — or at least in casting the mold of who I will become.

Andrew McCaffery performs this year at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club.
Andrew McCaffery performs this year at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. (Jamie Rosenberg photo / Class of 2012)

In doing so, Laguna’s teachers and administration have been ever-careful to prevent any major burns. However, we are not babied; our mother owl simply waits longer to kick us out of the nest and teach us to fly. Our wings are exercised but not fully tested for flight. This delayed introduction into the “real world” allows students to develop a broader portfolio of abilities and interests, which, in theory, should lead to greater possibilities later in life.

This grand potential can be seen in the vast array of senior projects taken on by the Class of 2012. We have students working in real estate, health care, business and many other areas of life in which a Laguna education proves most applicable. In my case, working in Paris for Total Petrochemicals France, a subsidiary of oil-giant Total S.A., I will be flexing my French language skills learned from Mme. Maud Maillard, my public speaking and communication skills from Ms. Trish McHale, and even my computer skills from Ms. Barbara Remick.

As I flesh out these final thoughts and travel through the stratosphere towards the land of croissants and champagne, I can once more confirm that small beginnings lead to large futures.

Laguna Blanca will not immediately unveil its spoils to anyone; however, it will guide us in the right directions, teaching us to find clues and a sense of direction in all endeavors. Slowly, but surely, it teaches one how to navigate life. I am proud to be an Owl.

— Senior Andrew McCaffery is a member of Laguna Blanca School’s Class of 2012.

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