Miranda out for a snowy hike at the Conserve School, a semester program in Wisconsin

Miranda out for a snowy hike at the Conserve School, a semester program in Wisconsin

By Miranda,CG ’14

Two and a half years ago I started as a freshman at Common Ground High School, and my life changed forever. I started learning and doing things that changed how I thought, ate, wrote, and spoke. I’ve made some lasting friendships and I’ve made some mistakes. Now, I’m in Wisconsin, Land O’ Lakes to be exact, and I am using what Common Ground has taught me and are applying it to this semester school.

Conserve School’s tagline is “one semester can make a world of difference,” and I’ve come to interpret it to mean two things, firstly, that this experience will have made a difference in my life, and secondly, that each group of high school students that comes to Lowenwood, the 1200 mile campus, will learn things that will help them change the world.

Conserve is a ways away from my home in New Haven, Connecticut. Traveling to Conserve is the farthest west I’ve ever traveled, is the reason for the first real road trip I’ve taken, and the only time I’ve ever gone into a different time zone.

I’ve found an excellent contrast between CGHS and Conserve, and experiencing the differences has made me appreciate the things about CG that I’ve taken for granted.  For example, I take the bus to CG, like most of the students. I take a bus through New Haven, which is an awesome city. I really miss the awesome city of New Haven because at the moment I am 7 miles from Land O’Lakes, which is not a bustling city at all. I really do miss going to random coffee shops and seeing random people on the bus rides home and to school. But, I haven’t explained Lowenwood.

Lowenwood is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Ever since I’ve gotten to Conserve I’ve been exploring it, and enjoying the beauty by going cross country skiing, and by going snowshoeing. At CG, we are on West Rock, which is beautiful, but I am loving the things we can do at Lowenwood with all my heart.

Right now, I write this in the gathering space, this gigantic space where gathering happens. There are couches, and right now it’s empty of people. I love to just sit in the gathering space and talk with friends, and plan what we are going to do next. Just for perspective, our whole school could fit inside the Gathering Space. I can circle CG in less than a half hour, but the difference is that CG is filled to the brim with people! We’ve got teachers, faculty, students, and all the visitors that come here on a daily basis. Visitors, because New Haven isn’t in the middle of nowhere, happen upon CG often. I love showing prospective students  and various visitors around our campus.

Because Conserve is really big I can’t really find alone time without feeling like I’m  missing something. I could always be missing an interesting dinner conversation, cartwheels in the Gathering Space, or a game of pool. At Common Ground I have two kinds of friends, the friends I’ve made because of doing an activity together, like helping fundraise, and the friends that are part of my group of friends I hang out with during classes and at lunch. The diversity of  those friends is awesome, I end up hanging out with a bunch of different people and establishing a bunch of relationships. At Conserve I’ve made a whole bunch of close friends that I spend most of my time with. I hang out with my roommate, AshleyMarie, my friends Anna, Sequoia, Josh, Fritz, Erin, Jason, Jaimeson, and Asa. I am also friends with the people in my classes, and because there aren’t many people here, I have gotten to get to know most of the students.

Now, as I look back on the semester I couldn’t have experienced my junior year any other way. When I was at Conserve I got the chance to relax and hang out, to try all the new things in a condensed amount of time, only 16 weeks, and learn more about myself while making some lifelong friends. When I returned to Common Ground I felt at home, which makes sense; Common Ground is where I work, where I play, and where I’ve played the part of someone who has died three  or more times. I loved being at Conserve, but it’s great to be home.

Now I’m a senior, far from the eager freshman girl I was 3 years ago. I still read all the time, still spend way too much time on the internet, and I still insist that soonly is a word, but now I’ve gone backpacking, kayaked, won multiple games of pool, learned to speak up for myself and managed to stay off of Tumblr for a month. If any of the things I’ve mentioned appeal to you I would happily recommend Conserve.