I was thirteen when I attended Spudfest at the Ojai Valley School Upper Campus.
Spudfest is an annual campus-integrating event that introduces students of the Lower Campus to high school life.
We had Team Comp(etition) and battled it out in various events for points, the winner would be rewarded with a pizza party.
We did all sorts of games, including, but not limited to, the chicken launch, the Barbie drop, tug-o-war, candy mummies (where someone got wrapped in tape and rolled on a tarp with candy all over it), and the shoe scramble. It was all very jazzy.
Afterward we had a party up at the campus.
They had a cotton candy machine. And a chocolate fountain.
I met my future journalism teacher (for whom I am writing this blog post right now), when he made me some cotton candy. Little did I know he would be the worst thing that ever happened to me. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Fred Alvarez with Ojai Valley School Alumna Reika Kijima
We had carnival rides.
And other such… strange forms of amusement.
That day, I met people I will never forget.
Eight months later, I was ready to graduate middle school.
I had chosen Villanova Preparatory School, a private Catholic school three minutes away from the Lower Campus.
There were about a thousand things wrong with this decision, among them, a dress code, the fact that they would have made me retake Spanish I and Algebra I, the early morning start time, and the fact that I am passionately, ardently, fiercely atheist.
But the tuition was less, and that made the decision easy for me.
However, I didn’t know that they were going to make me retake two courses (that I didn’t particularly enjoy the first time around), until the day of graduation.
So I went up on stage, where the Headmaster, Andy Hamilton, gave me my diploma and announced that I would be attending Villanova in the fall. I felt oddly dissatisfied when his words pulsed through the speakers.
There was going to be a pool party at Villanova, where I could pick up textbooks and get oriented. I was all set to go when my parents informed me I was to retake the aforementioned courses and I just lost it.
I thought about what had transpired during Spudfest eight months before, told my dad I would not do those classes over, and that I wanted to go to Upper.
He made the call that night, and within a few hours, I was enrolled as a freshman at the Upper Campus.
Upper Campus at Sunset
I hadn’t told anyone I switched schools. The day students get lockers with their names on the doors, and when several of my friends at Upper saw my name, they were surprised and it made me smile.
So, in short, Spudfest was a glorified sales pitch, and it worked.
It was the catalyst day, the event that determined the direction of my high school career.