High School Reflection


Ellie Pogorek

Senior Tyler Burkett sits on the stairs of the Main Entrance during his last week of high school.

Tyler Burkett

Wow, I really made it this far. Soon I’ll be walking up onto a stage, shaking an old dude’s hand, (Mr. Novacek if you’re reading this, I don’t actually think you’re old, I’m just saying that for dramatic effect) and be taking my sheet of paper that says “Hey look! You graduated high school!”

I’m writing this as a sort of “graduation speech,” so I hope you enjoy and are able to imagine yourself sitting down, tears streaming down your face from the sheer elegance of my speech.

You may have seen my face, or the back of my head, on multiple photos throughout this site and thought to yourself, “I wonder what his story is, he looks so cool, interesting, and handsome.” Even if you didn’t think any of those thoughts, here’s my high school story in brief.

I started high school living in North Carolina after moving from two different middle schools and was apprehensive about what high school would be like. I was very disappointed in my first week when no one started getting up to dance and sing on the tables. The closest thing I got to a pop-up musical was walking into the bathroom during lunch and seeing a bunch of dudes vaping while rapping to each other. Needless to say, it was a poor excuse for a live performance.

I wasn’t very involved with many clubs at that school. The only sport that I did was wrestling, and every practice felt like, in the most literal sense, hell. While I enjoyed wrestling, I never put a lot of the effort that I could have put into it. I became a mediocre wrestler who was good enough to beat most JV kids, but not good enough to wrestle at the varsity level. Once I moved to Kansas, I still wrestled and enjoyed the sense of camaraderie on a greater scale thanks to more opportunities to wrestle, but I still just skated by in the sport. 

Once COVID hit at the end of my junior year, that also spelled the end of my wrestling career. I knew I didn’t want to continue wrestling in college and I was extremely burnt out from the end of a very unsatisfying season last year, so I had to quit. It was not easy to do so, and I missed that electrifying feeling of waking up on a meet day and that being the only thing on my mind until I hit the mat and was face-to-face with my opponent. Wrestling gave me the ability to fully appreciate the hard work that I put in, not only on the mat but in other aspects of my life, and to continue working hard at whatever it is I want to achieve. 

I am on my own path and am here to work on myself before I can give out my energy to others. That being said, I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I become the truest version of myself, and still have more work yet to maintain a content state of mind as I grow.”

— Tyler Burkett

Another huge aspect of my high school experience was the website that this article is posted on. I started writing for the Owl Post as a junior and was bright-eyed and ill-suited for the job, but ready to take on the challenge. I explicitly remember the first interview that I ever conducted in the conference room right outside of the Green Tech Academy. I was nervous, my voice was cracking, and I transcribed every single word spoken during that interview. I later learned, much to my surprise, that there were online services that could transcribe interviews for me, but I was a day late and a dollar short on that end.

Being a part of the newspaper staff gave me an outlet for my writing skills and I am very grateful for all of the opportunities it has provided me. From a week-long, summer journalism camp at the University of Kansas, to the support from my wonderfully encouraging and understanding advisor, Mrs. Walker. I’ll surely miss the staff and everything they’ve done for me and am excited to see the future journalists that will contribute work to this amazing publication.

Even though I was involved in a sport and an extracurricular, I was still a shy kid who didn’t have many friends outside of school. For the most part, I stayed at home on the weekends while everyone else went out with their friends. I never actively strove for a friend group, but I was jealous of those in one.

It wasn’t until halfway through my sophomore year I was invited to a friend group that I felt that I really belonged with. It was comforting to be a part of a friend group that actually cared for me. While I was still reluctant to hang out with them, I enjoyed every minute of our adventures and wild discussions that always seemed to end with us laughing until we were crying.

Because of my time spent here at West and the friends that I’ve gained, I’ve learned that my antisocial personality isn’t anything to be ashamed of. When I was younger, I lied both to others and myself about what I did as a way to try and fit in and I had no real sense of identity. Who I was started to become lost because I just molded my personality to fit everyone else’s desires. It really wasn’t until the quarantine last year that I started to purge myself of these self-destructive behaviors. And believe me, putting on different faces for different people is both self-destructive and hard to maintain.

This past year I’ve started doing things for myself and realizing that I don’t need anyone else’s approval to be happy or be myself. I started putting more effort into my hobbies, thinking more about what it is that I want to do with my life instead of what others want me to do. I can dress the way I want to and be confident about the image I put out into the world. I am on my own path and am here to work on myself before I can give out my energy to others. That being said, I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I become the truest version of myself, and still have more work yet to maintain a content state of mind as I grow.

On one breezy morning in the middle of April, upon walking into school after receiving my second dose of the COVID vaccine, I felt a strange pang in my stomach. It was this strange feeling that I hadn’t given any thought to before. It was the feeling that I would be leaving this place soon. This place where I have dedicated hours upon hours of my life to different sporting events, class projects, newspaper brainstorming sessions, and Power 50 lunch sessions at my friend group’s reserved table that I had to rush to because nobody respects dibs anymore. Walking into school I felt sadness move through me. 

But with that sadness, I also feel hopeful for the future. The world is slowly adjusting to a sense of normalcy with the pandemic slowly coming under control. Life is taking me on a new path that’s going to be full of its own gauntlet of challenges, obstacles, barriers and all sorts of other synonyms for the word challenges.

All in all, my high school experience has been one unique roller coaster ride that I’ll sorely miss when I throw my cap in the air and move on to the next chapter in my life.

(If you’ve read this far and are interested, Tyler will be attending KU in the fall and plans on majoring in English. With all that needed to be said, said, Tyler ends his speech to massive applause with roses being thrown at his feet as he walks off into the sunset with his head held high.)