Voices from SD Orientation: Veronica Wong

Hi everyone, and welcome, new and returning Secondary Division students! My name is Veronica Wong and I’m a rising senior at Piedmont High School. Today I’ll be sharing with you a few thoughts I have about ATDP. But since you’ve already heard so much about how wonderful it is, I’d like to present a different perspective.

ATDP sucks.

Bet you weren’t expecting that.

Now, teachers and returning students, don’t boo me offstage yet, and parents, please don’t withdraw your student from the program. Like everyone else has and will say, ATDP is a wonderful summer program. But here are two ways in which it is terrible: the classes are hard and getting to know the classmates and teachers is not fun. Just hear me out.

Firstly, the coursework at ATDP is very difficult. In my first year of Secondary Division, I took the First-Year Latin class. Having aced all my classes in seventh grade, I thought the course would be a breeze. Imagine my surprise after the first test, when, for the first time in my life, I was handed a paper with a big fat C-minus. Not only that, I eventually finished the course with my first ever B. The next year, I was shocked to find the Chemistry class just as demanding. In fact, each of the five ATDP classes I’ve taken was immensely challenging, especially in comparison to the corresponding courses at school.

I know that many of you are straight-A students who find academics easy. You’re the big fish of your school’s little pond, and you’re used to doing well without putting in much effort. I was in the same boat. But with the fast-paced courses and the many hours of homework each day, I found myself struggling to keep up. To be honest, my first two years at ATDP were very hard and, yeah, really sucked. But they forced me to develop new study habits and to manage my time better. Instead of coasting along the surface, I dug deep into the course material and studied it in new ways. I challenged myself and learned so much more than I used to. Not only was I able to keep up with ATDP, I could also apply my new skills to tougher classes once I entered high school.

Trust me, ATDP will be challenging and will probably suck if you’re unprepared. But don’t give up! You already got here — you can do it.

Secondly, ATDP sucks because of the people. Just hear me out. Last year, I took AP Biology, which meets eight hours a day, three times a week for six weeks. My nine classmates and I spent a total of 144 hours together, working on partner labs, emailing each other for homework help, panicking over the final on the group text, getting boba after class at Purple Kow. Never before had I met such a brilliant, diverse group who loved biology as much as I did.

Additionally, the instructors at ATDP are wonderful. In six weeks, my ATDP chemistry teacher covered material that took five months to teach at regular school. Not only that, he did it clearly and succinctly and even managed to set aside a day to have fun with labs. I loved the class and learned so much from it that I was even given the opportunity to come back the next year and be a teacher’s assistant, which gave me the chance to meet even more incredible students.

So why does ATDP suck? It’s too short — only six weeks, which is not nearly enough time to spend with the amazing classmates and teachers. Like I said before, making friends with them is not fun, because you’ll rarely see them again after this summer. You’re going to make friends with a lot of people who have the same interests as you do but may or may not have a similar background and perspective. My advice is to definitely keep in touch with everyone! Don’t lose these valuable and unique connections!

In conclusion, no, obviously ATDP does not suck. Personally, it has challenged me, shown me what subjects I’m really interested in, helped me meet intelligent and passionate people, and even given me my first real job. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the normal school year pales in comparison to these six weeks at ATDP. It has changed my life, and I really hope it will do the same for you too. I wish you a great summer, and thank you!