By Laci Sutton / Staff Writer

Growing up in a small town, I’ve heard all the jokes and stereotypes, as well as some harsh criticism. I’ve listened to classmates constantly talk about getting out of this town as soon as they graduate (most of which never did), been talked to about the seemingly endless lists of opportunities I could have if I transferred to a bigger school, and I can’t even count the times we’ve been called rednecks or hicks. 

No matter how much negativity I hear about small-town schools compared to large schools, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

My high school, Nickerson, was classified as a 4A school. This means we had between 312-661 students in the school. Usually, we were on the lower end of that range, sometimes even below that. 

I graduated in 2018 with a graduating class of 85 students. I could probably name every student in my graduating class, and at least 60-75% of the students in my whole high school. 

Many of these kids I’ve gone to school with since I was in kindergarten. We’ve bonded for years, we became a family. I wasn’t best friends with all of them. Some of them got on my last nerve daily. 

The Friday-night lights were the best feelings. I was a cheerleader, so I had my own little cheer family with me each week. We struggled together, laughed together, and built each other up in every aspect of our lives. My cheer girls were, and always will be, my sisters. 

We watched our football team go from one of the lowest teams in the league to being winners. We had our whole town behind us, supporting us in every event. We had each other to count on whenever we needed. 

We grew up together all the way until our graduation. 

Many of us parted ways, but a lot of us are still here, going back to the same school that made us into the people we are today and continue to support them. 

I remember being told many times when I was growing up about the opportunities I could have going to a bigger school. They would tell me about all these new, cool classes their students can enroll in. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that even though we may not have had as many of these available courses, we did have ones that taught us so much more than the material coursework. 

We were taught to be honest and considerate citizens. We were taught to follow our passions because you never know where it will take you.

Being in a smaller school, we also had smaller class sizes, which meant we got to bond with our teachers and build connections with them that would last a lifetime. 

My teachers blessed me in so many ways. They had a passion for their job. There’s no question teachers aren’t treated as well as they should be, but these teachers came to school every day ready to help us. They loved us like their own children, and I can’t imagine that connection happening in larger schools. 

I’m beyond thankful for my time at Nickerson High School. It has shaped me into the person I am today and provided me with countless amazing opportunities. I created a family with everyone during my time there. 

We may not have talked every day, maybe we didn’t even get along back then. Whatever the case, these are my people. This is where I come from. 

Once a Panther, always a Panther.

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