Aidan and a young friend at Amherst Japanese Language School, where he volunteers

Aidan and a young friend at Amherst Japanese Language School, where he volunteers

by Aidan Wilburn, North Star member

I have never really liked school. I remember back in 4th grade, I wrote a whole essay on why homework is useless, and why we should not have to do it. In middle school, I had a difficult time paying attention to classes, unless it was something that I genuinely found interesting, which was why my best grade at the end of 8th grade was an A+ in Songwriting class. Right before I was about to finish up middle school, I discovered a brand new interest that is still one of my favorite things to do: studying languages and linguistics. I used to stay up until 1:00 a.m. doing Norwegian courses on Duolingo. I still go crazy whenever I see bilingual signs or packaging. I watch Québecois YouTubers, and I listen to Disney songs dubbed in different languages. Needless to say, I think I definitely discovered what I was born to do. But I knew about three days into my freshman year of high school that soon I wouldn’t have much free time to study what I wanted, or figure out how I wanted to do it.

I couldn’t stand high school. It felt like almost every few days I would come home crying thinking about how I would have to do this for the next four years of my life, and that it was only going to get worse, since the year had only just begun. If North Star hadn’t been an option for me, I don’t know what I would’ve done. This is my second year here, and leaving traditional education was definitely the best decision of my life. I’ve met so many nice people at North Star, and it’s a very stress-free environment. I even told one of my closest friends whom I met in middle school about North Star, and he left his high school and came here at the beginning of this year. 

I love that here, I can be my own person and form my own curriculum. I come Mondays and Thursdays, and my time on those days is filled with language tutorials, studying on my own, taking really interesting classes, hanging out and playing Smash Bros with my friends, and taking the bus to Frontier Pizza, or walking to the Sunderland corner store. 

On the days that I’m not here, I still manage to keep myself busy. I spend my Tuesday mornings in downtown Amherst studying at the Jones Library. I enjoy taking breaks to get some bubble tea at LimeRed, and do some more studying there as well. In the afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work at the front desk at my father’s chiropractic office. Friday mornings I do a similar job at my mother’s weight-loss clinic. On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, I work out at my local cross-fit gym. Wednesday nights I take a Korean class in Greenfield, where all the other students are adults. Basically, thanks to North Star, I have all of these opportunities to learn and grow, in a way that doesn’t just involve textbooks and chalkboards. 

I’m not sure where I would be today if I had kept doing regular school. Truthfully, that thought scares me to think about. I am grateful that when I wake up Monday and Thursday mornings, I can start the day off feeling excited, and not with a dreadful feeling eating me from the inside out. Whenever my friends and I are having fun at North Star, playing video games or something like that, I sometimes say to them “Just think, our other friends are in school doing this or that,” and we laugh. Not at them, of course, but because we have this amazing opportunity that not a lot of people can get, and I really do feel lucky for that. I hope that in the future, we can have more places like North Star located all around the world.