Art students vs class rank

Megan Curling, Editor-in-Chief

In 2007, the historic R.J. Reynolds High School officially achieved its status as a nationally accredited Arts Magnet school, creating a program that has drawn in hundreds of students from outside of their residential zones.

With this influx of students, Reynolds has seen an increase in diversity, talent, recognition and most notably, graduation rate, with a stark increase from the 2007 rate of 66% to 2017’s 88%, an impressive feat for any school in a decade span.

With the positive relationship between school success and the addition of an incredible arts program, RJR has not only drastically improved in the state rankings but also received grant dollars and national recognition.

Knowing that, one might think to themselves, “I bet the nearly 2,000 students who come to school every day to foster some form of passion for the arts are rewarded for helping the school to reap such great benefits of the successful arts program!”

And although I cannot contest that our partnership with The Pulitzer Center, access to several schoolwide performances a year, or benefits of the money received through aforementioned grants are very well appreciated by students such as myself, it must still be mentioned that there is a gaping hole in the arts system at RJR: students obtain both a lower GPA as well as a lower class rank if they choose to take arts classes all four years.

By just attending Reynolds, you are presented glittering options of taking classes such as tap dance, theatre tech, or ceramics, many of which you cannot take anywhere else in the district, what a beautiful thing!

That is, until you look at your transcript and realize that you are at a lower rank than your peers who have chosen to go the dreadful “AP load” route, frequently sacrificing their passions for their desire to shine on that ivy covered admissions desk.

The rigor of the college application process is at an all time high, with seniors and their families doing everything short of selling their souls to impress their dream schools; that is, unless you are related to Lori Loughlin, in which case, congrats on USC!

With that competition, students are fighting to achieve the highest possible GPA they can in four years, all while completing the simple task of simultaneously tasks of eating Chick-fil-A, driving 20 minutes to home sports games, running from a golf cart, and occasionally sleeping.

It is an incredible thing that Reynolds has so successfully created a program that is the poster child proof that public school arts programs do not have to be underfunded or on the brink of collapse to exist as an entity. Thus, it is unfortunate when, in an attempt to seem more appealing academically, seniors choose to give up their preferred arts class as it will hinder their GPA.

You may argue that GPA is just a number, APs are not actually useful and that class rank will be forgotten within five years of graduating, and while I agree, I also know that as a senior, I have to put my feelings aside if I have any hope of surviving the purge that is college admissions.

All that to say, unless there is a magical overhaul of the monopolistic College Board’s pledge to aid you in life more than being a well rounded human will, the vicious cycle will continue and the students who bring pride, money, and envied recognition to RJR will see their dedication to their studies through standard and honors level arts classes reflected everywhere but their transcripts.

Inforgraphic courtesy of Karen Morris