The Falcon Way of Life

James Manso is a senior at Scripps Ranch High School. He will write occassional columns for the SRCA Newsletter this year, giving us a look inside SRHS. He’s a busy young man. James is the SRHS yearbook editor in chief, Fashion Club president, the Improv Team publicist, and an intern at San Diego Magazine. You also may see his smiling face at Vons! No wonder he calls his column, “Where the Coffee Never Stops.” Actually, the title is inspired by a nonfiction piece by his favorite nonfiction writer, Joan Didion. Welcome to the Newsletter family, James!

Thus far, the topic most crucial to my success in the real world that I learned about in high school is coffee. I wish I could say that I didn’t drink two or three—or occasionally six—cups per day, supplemented with an espresso shot here and there, but that would simply be a lie. After all, I know I’m not alone: we’ve all sat down to our first period class while clutching a Starbucks cup.

Granted, I know that there is nothing wrong with coffee, and it is merely required when attending a serious learning institution like Scripps Ranch High School. Scripps is ranked first in the district for standardized testing scores—the API or Academic Performance Index. Achievement is very important to a great deal of the students.

Truthfully, I was surprised at how nonexistent the “dumb jock” stereotype is at our school, because I suppose maintaining a perfect GPA and receiving offers from Ivy League schools is just a day in the life for an average field hockey, football, or soccer player. Did I mention that half of them are also seriously involved in clubs, organizations like the Associated Student Body (ASB), and somehow receive a decent amount of sleep every night?

That being said, academic achievement isn’t the only thing us students of Scripps—or as our cheesy administration calls us, Falcons—think is unique about our school. Not only do we have students with perfect SAT scores—one of whom is, to my knowledge, researching new methods of diagnosing prostate cancer—and passionate teachers, we also have a quad that nobody steps on, seagulls that think we’ve adopted them, and a breathtaking, scenic view of Interstate 15! How enticing! At least we finally have air conditioning, they say.

It is without pretense that I may report we do take academics very seriously, which is much to the relief of overachievers and a disadvantage to those who want to “cruise” through high school. With the courses offered and expected of students, there will be no “cruising.” Two of the students with perfect SAT scores I mentioned earlier are both in my English class. I have never felt as self-conscious about my writing as I did when one of them edited a college essay for me during our college essay workshop day in October.

In the midst of college essays, the top college choices of our student body also are indicative of the academic rigor that Scripps students must acclimate to. It is both incredible and unsettling to know how many colleagues have set their sights on Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, and other staple schools for CEOs, cutting-edge doctors, and future presidents. Once again, as our cheesy administration would say, “Fly on, Falcons!”

Ever-demanding attention as well would be the social scene at Scripps. While some may call it a clique problem, I prefer to think of Scripps to be composed of separate, clearly defined niches based on interests, whether they involve partying or calculus. All of these so-called niches are arranged in a spiral around the circular quad—whoever named the quad clearly doesn’t remember their freshman year geometry course—in order of social importance. I’ve heard it equated to the shell of a snail, but I prefer to think of it as having the same orientation as the neighborhoods in Paris, just with less classical architecture and secondhand smoke.

I have yet to decipher what ranks a group as being more or less important, and why sitting at the quad benches is any better than sitting in an outer borough, such as the shaded areas of the gym or the lunch tables next to the cafeteria. But I hope there is at least a little bit of merit behind this categorization.

I wish I could pretend and say that walking through my first lunch period as a senior this past September was no longer daunting. I don’t mean to discourage any freshmen or transfer students, but the feeling never truly subsides.

Everyone is huddled in a circle, curled around tables or walking around the quad—the term for this is “lapping,” although thinking of doing laps forces me to recall my horrid failures running the mile in PE. I don’t think that the various clusters intend to seem exclusive, but I don’t believe anyone entirely evades this perception.

As I walk through the quad and hear snippets of everyone’s conversations, which run the gamut from Stanford applications to freshman year physics homework to troubles at home, I realize that there are much worse things that could occur to me than a moderate coffee addiction. After all, if there’s anything I learned from my time at Scripps Ranch High School, a venti Americano from Starbucks can be just as encouraging as a prestigious college acceptance letter.

James Manso, SRHS Senior