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Voices of DSHA

Address to the DSHA Class of 2027

January 25 marked the DSHA Class of 2027 Dasher Kick-Off, in which the whole incoming freshman class gathered for the first time at DSHA. They met one-on-one with faculty and staff to register for classes, met their school counselors, and learned more about the DSHA experience. Julia Rentmeester, DSHA '23, also addressed the incoming class during the night. Read her comments to the class of 2027 below.
Hi everybody! I’m Julia Rentmeester. I’m a senior here at DSHA, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to talk to you.

When I walked into DSHA on my first day of freshman year, I had two goals in mind. First, I vowed that I would never, ever become one of the three senior girls who stood outside in penguin costumes and cheered because that looked terrifying and I was not courageous enough to do that. My second goal was to keep my head down and do whatever it took to blend in.

Stepping through those front doors meant that I was going from being in a class of 30 students who I’d known since kindergarten to a class with over 170 girls of whom I knew less than 15. This is probably a similar situation for most of you. I thought I’d love the feeling of starting fresh and being a new person, but in reality, I was terrified. So for those first few weeks of freshman year, I followed what everyone else did and focused on sports and academics.

I came into freshman year nervous, afraid, and quiet with no desire to stick out. Now, four years later, if you asked any of my teachers, friends, or family how they would describe me, I don’t think those words would cross their minds. DSHA developed me into the strong, confident, outspoken woman I always had within me but didn’t know how to express.

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. It started when I was willing to take a leap and say yes. The first step in my journey was running for Student Council. I saw it as my big opportunity to step out of the person I was at the start of the year and get involved. If you could have seen my mom’s face when I told her this, you would know how out of character this was for me. Not only was I thinking of giving a speech in front of my entire freshman class, but I was also running for School Pride, the commission all about energy, being loud, and promoting school spirit. The commission that also happened to be run by our “mascots”—the Pennies—the same girls in the penguin costumes that I had been afraid of on the very first day of school.

To make a long story short, I contradicted every intention I had of blending in and performed a self-written rap about School Pride to my class of 170 girls and, shockingly, I won the election.

That election was a huge breakthrough in setting my path to explore new opportunities, and I don’t think it would have happened if I hadn’t been here at DSHA. DSHA’s safe, all-girls environment allowed and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and practice my leadership. DSHA laid the groundwork, and I had to learn to say yes.

I’ve carried that openness with me through my four years as I’ve taken on more leadership in retreats, Campus Ministry, and other areas. But I’ve also used it to push myself out of my comfort zone to try new things, even if I’m not the best. For example, I transitioned from volleyball to cross country my junior year, and, although I really struggled to adapt at first, I discovered a strong community of girls and coaches who pushed me to be my best and supported me no matter what.

As I approach graduation, I’ve become more grateful for the endless opportunities to succeed that DSHA offered me. I’ve had the privilege of having numerous influential teachers and figures stick by my side and support me all four years and lead me to who and where I am today. I’ve made some of my best friends and memories within this school, and I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything.

As I look out at all of you, the class of 2027 and the future of DSHA, I see a little part of myself four years ago. Although I won’t be here next year, I’m excited to see you all thrive in your own passions and strong suits, to watch you discover new interests and make new friends, and to someday meet the lovely women all of you will become and already are. I look out at you and I see girls who are ready, whether they know it or not.

I’ve thought a lot about what advice I needed as an incoming freshman, and it boils down to something simple. You don’t have to know what to expect. You don’t have to have the next four years mapped out or even the next few months. By simply being here and being open to saying yes and stepping out of your comfort zone, you are already on the path to success. Don’t be afraid to just jump in. Take advantage of the summer camps we offer for the incoming freshmen, talk to new people, and — yes this sounds incredibly cringy — but be yourself! DSHA is made for each one of you to pave your own way. I’m still the same girl I was freshman year, but DSHA pushed me to reach my potential that I didn’t even see in myself.

All I wish for you is that, like me, you will fail at any silly goals you set for yourself on the first day of school and instead take advantage of any opportunity you want at DSHA. It’s going to be scary and nerve-wracking but also exciting, positive, and likely life-changing. I know it was for me.

The best way I can think to end this speech to the newest freshmen class of DSHA is with the three things I would tell my freshman self who started my journey here. First, DSHA will change your life in ways you can’t even imagine. Second, you’re now going to be a freshman again as you go to college and get to relive this entire experience, so buckle in. And third, surprise! You are one of the Pennies, the senior girls in the penguin costumes, and you LOVE it!
    • Julia Rentmeester, DSHA '23

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