Classes, sports, clubs, friends, the list of high school memories goes on and on. After being at the same school for four years, students overcame trials, celebrated accomplishments, and made lifelong memories. Two Oswego High School seniors Isaiah Malagon-Spencer and Shae McCabe face a pivotal time in their lives and share their experiences throughout high school, where they are now, and what they plan for the future.
Malagon-Spencer is an active member of the Class of 2022, as he has been involved with OHS basketball, volleyball, bowling, and B.I.O.N.I.C. Not to mention, he was our 2022 Homecoming King.
“That’s a pretty big difference between groups of people,” Malagon-Spencer says of his extracurricular groups.
Each year of high school held different experiences, lessons, and celebrations for Isaiah, in the ever-changing high school world. His one word to describe his high school experience? Crazy.
“Freshman year… when the seniors did their senior prank, there [were] chickens running around the hall,” Malagon-Spencer says.
Winning Homecoming King was Malagon-Spencer’s favorite high school memory amidst the chaotic four years he experienced, even more than chickens on the loose, online school, and returning back to school in person for his senior year.
“It’s such a small thing, but in the long run, it helped me gain some confidence back,” Malagon-Spencer says.
Accompanied with many positive memories, negative experiences add to the learning process of growing up during high school, and some memories still stick.
“Sophomore year, my least favorite [memory] would be being separated from all my friends, and then junior year would have to be just the stress of junior year—like SAT, AP testing at home,” Malagon-Spencer says.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic stunted high school growth and was an obstacle in many students’ paths, and Malagon-Spencer felt the effects of it this year.
“I kept good grades, but I didn’t carry good critical thinking skills with me,” Malagon-Spencer says.
Overall, high school leaves students with life experiences and lessons to carry along with them wherever they travel.
“Working together can do some crazy things—some really cool things,” Malagon-Spencer says.
As of recent, Malagon-Spencer plans to attend Benedictine University in the fall. His past helped bring him to where he is today, and the knowledge he gained from his experiences left him with an idea of what he would do differently if he could change anything about his four years of high school.
“I would not hold any grudge against anybody and just realized that we’re all here together, and after high school, we can all go our separate ways,” Malagon-Spencer says. “While we’re here, the grudges and unnecessary drama are just not needed at all.”
While there may be an occasional drama during high school, it is also a prime time to make friends that could stay with each other for a lifetime.
“I definitely feel like I’ll be in contact with a lot of [my friends], especially going through something so strange as a pandemic,” Malagon-Spencer says.
For Malagon-Spencer, high school was an opening door to a new journey and a time to experience all that high school has to offer.
“There [are] a lot of different paths you can take, and high school is just the beginning of those paths,” Malagon-Spencer says.
McCabe has found their place in the theater and music departments of OHS and has never looked back. They are a part of the show choir Commotion; various choirs, one being acapella choir; and bands, like wind symphony and pep band. McCabe is a teacher’s assistant for treble choir and bass for concert choir, and they participate in the Standing O Theatre Company (SOTC).
“These places have been the reason for going to school in the morning,” McCabe says.
When looking back at their time at OHS, McCabe has one way to describe the hodgepodge of experiences, using a metaphor they heard someone use to symbolize Commotion:
Soup is a mixture of ingredients and spices all combined into one harmonious meal that is possibly nostalgic and heartwarming, which makes it a fitting analogy for their overall experience at high school.
“You’ve got the goods and the bads,” McCabe says. “You’ve got the people, the memories, the stress about grades, the joys of homecoming and prom.”
One of Shae’s positives that made their soup better is something that has developed over their whole time at OHS and may have even started before then.
“My favorite memory would be meeting the people I know now and watching them grow from freshman to senior year,” McCabe says.
They have also found friends in the OHS staff, which have provided them with a safe space at OHS and inspired them.
“I want to be able to become a teacher like that and have a safe place for students who need it,” McCabe says.
They found their calling for the future during their time at OHS and have made plans for their path to fulfilling their dream. Additionally, they learned that high school is more than just a curriculum.
“One thing I learned is my love for music, so I’m going into music education,” McCabe says. “I also learned that one of the big parts of high school is the people in it that are with you all four years.”
When a soup is made, it is hard to get a feel of what the final product will be, but after tasting it and reflecting back, adjustments pop into mind. Similarly, reflecting on their time at high school led McCabe to think of two modifications they would have made to their journey.
“I wish I could go back and tell my freshman self to be myself,” McCabe says. “Another thing was that I wish some of the drama didn’t have to happen.”
Additionally, a few abnormal high school years left them wanting more from their high school memories.
“As a whole, we got one normal year of high school,” McCabe says.
Moving forward, they plan to attend Northern Illinois University and have mixed feelings about leaving Panther country.
“I really don’t want to leave behind the underclassmen and the juniors,” McCabe says. “But also, I’m ready to move on with the next step and the next chapter of my life.”
Leaving O Country may not be easy for McCabe and Malagon-Spencer, but it is time for them to continue their paths and experience all that the world has to offer them. Through all four years of high school, one lesson McCabe learned that sticks with them the most is one they want to leave behind for all people, including the upcoming and current Panthers.
“Be yourself no matter what,” McCabe says.
My name is Miranda Mahoney, and I am the Managing Editor and Features Co-Editor for 42Fifty. I am a junior here at Oswego High School, and this is my second year on the 42Fifty team. Additionally, I am involved in the BIONIC club, Junior Class Council, the Science National Honor Society, and the Quill and Scroll Honor Society for journalism. In the spring, I play soccer for the OHS Girls Soccer team. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, and playing piano in my free time. I am excited to see what this year brings!