I’m certain a large portion of that easy-going, but interested and interesting life attitude comes from the education he received as a student at the Albuquerque Academy. His fifth grade teacher, sensing that he was never going to get what he needed academically at APS, suggested to me that he apply for sixth grade at AA.
At the time, I was beyond financially strapped. Some months I had to decide whether to pay the electric bill or buy groceries first (okay – most months). The idea of sending little Zachary off to a private hoity toity school where the tuition was something like $8,500 annually (and that was in 1992) and where the acceptance rate was only 10% of applicants was intimidating, to say the least.
I cringed as I completed the application and the financial aid form, went with him to orientation and testing and his personal interview, and then as we waited, month after month, for the acceptance letter. By the time we got to the waiting stage, I decided we had totally lost our minds. I couldn’t bear the thought of him being rejected, but I was also frightened by the prospect of him being accepted. I knew saying yes to the Academy was going to be a huge commitment, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to say we would definitely stay in Albuquerque for the next seven years.
I remember that the acceptance letter came on April 15. And it was a yes. As was total financial aid. I had to pay for lunches and fees, which were in the neighborhood of $150 a month (it might as well have been $1,000 per month on my budget, but somehow we figured it out). And Zachary became a Charger.
Now when people ask me if they should send their child to the Albuquerque Academy, my answer is an immediate resounding YES. Zach’s life was changed by the friends he met there, by the way he was taught, and by the acceptance he experienced. There is a moment in every child’s life when being the smartest kid in the class is no longer cool. We had reached that moment in fifth grade. Then when Zach went to the Academy, it was suddenly cool again to be such a brain.
I’m proud of my boy. I’m proud of the fact that he got accepted into such a great institution and then stuck it out until graduation. I’m most proud that he became such a likable adult. He’s incredibly kind and generous and continues to be endlessly curious about the world. He’ll do something with his life that makes the world a better place to be. He already does that for his family and friends. When I think back to how scary it was to consider Zach being a student at the Academy, I’m reminded that sometimes the stuff that scares us the most ends up being the biggest comfort in the long haul.
So, I guess this blog post is both my pat on the back for Zachary (sort of a belated PhD congrats card. . .?) and my thank you note to the Albuquerque Academy. Thanks for being dedicated to teaching him everything from how to replicate DNA to how to play classical flamenco guitar (thanks especially Mr. Truitt!). The Academy, with its tree-lined paths and brick buildings, will always be one of my favorite places in New Mexico.
One side note: If you get to go to the Academy, either just for a visit, or in contemplation of sending your child there for a great education, take a minute and visit the medicine wheel located east of the Music Building. It was built by the Class of 2000 (Zach’s class) for their best pal, Minoa, who was killed in a senseless traffic accident. It’s a beautiful momument to how close these kids were to a guy who touched all of them deeply. It always moves me to tears.