Gabby Villacres spent six years learning at University School of the Lowcountry, but it was her last day that turned out to be her favorite. It was Eighth Grade Graduation Day, a day on which students celebrate with family, teachers and classmates by delivering a speech.
“It was deeply saddening, because I was leaving a place that had changed me into someone I am truly proud of, a place I can call home. But it was also prideful–I had made it through hundreds of LOTCs, shaken thousands of hands, learned how to speak three foreign languages, and grown into a person I never imagined I could be. Standing at the podium, looking out into a crowd of so many people who had affected me so greatly in so many ways truly moved me. I understand that an eight-minute speech couldn’t have been enough to thank all of the beautiful people that sat and laughed and cried before me, and for that I am grateful. Having an experience that one cannot truly put into words is simply surreal, and one I shall never forget,” she says.
Gabby, who lives in Awendaw, attended USL for third through eighth grade and is a freshman at Wando High School for the 2016-2017 school year. The two schools couldn’t be more different, but she feels that USL has her well-prepared to tackle her first year of high school in and out of the classroom.
From her favorite teacher, Mr. Kreutner, she learned academic excellence, problem solving, empathy, courage, and more. She also learned to express herself through her favorite class and succeeded in completing English I Honors as a eighth grader.
“To fully delve into what makes USL special, one would have to write an excruciatingly long novel. In short, it is an environment in which a child can grow into their full potential. The school teaches a child to truly embrace themselves–their intelligence, their empathy, their confidence–and how to intertwine it with their everyday lives,” says Gabby.
Before coming to USL Gabby remembers herself as being too shy to look an adult in the eyes, but now she relishes being able to hold meaningful conversations with people of all ages.
Gabby says, “The most important thing I learned at USL is confidence. I have learned how to not only stand up for myself but also for others. I’m not scared to speak my mind, which is incredibly important in today’s world. Confidence is not something everyone has, and I know I am extremely lucky to have it, as well as the fact that I have it because of USL.”