Chanoa Marx describes her middle-school mindset as uncaring, even horrible.
She struggled socially, sat in the back of class, didn’t listen as teachers taught. Change came after her decision to attend Barker High School because of its small size.
Now, a confident Marx is preparing to graduate from Barker, where she holds a student leadership post. She plans to attend the Evergreen State College in Olympia to major in business – a big step when considering she once dismissed college as a route for her life.
“I knew I wouldn’t be successful in a large high school,” Marx said. “In middle school, I did not pass a single class except language arts. I really didn’t pay attention, so I knew I needed to change and I came here.”
At Barker, students often work together in small groups to learn collaboratively.
“I knew it would fit my learning style more,” Marx said. “It’s more one-on-one. The teachers will walk you through if you’re struggling, but they also push you to try and figure out things on your own.”
She also credits Barker High leadership adviser John Griffiths for helping her think differently about school.
“I was thinking that school was forced on me, instead of thinking of school in terms of what I could get out of it,” she said. “He talks a lot about integrity. It’s something you do to school. You put yourself into it.”
Griffiths said he noticed Marx’s attitude change during her sophomore year, when she began recognizing the importance of quality work on assignments. Around that time, she also accepted a student leadership role with a group that organizes school activities.
“I think that was a turning point for her,” Griffiths said. “School used to be a stumbling block for her; it used to get in her way. Now, she looks at school as something she can do.”
In college, Marx said she may explore costume design for theater. She plans after school to co-own a café with her best friend. She also plans to have a retail space in that café to sell homemade soaps, lip balm and artsy products.
Now 18, she recently moved into her own apartment. She said family influenced her decision to do better in school, including being a role model to her brothers, ages 14 and 8.
“I wanted to make my parents proud, set an example for my younger brothers, to tell people who told me I’d never be successful that I could do whatever I set my mind to do.”
Marx said her leadership work helped her learn more about her strengths. Each month for the past year, she spoke about Barker’s activities before the Central Valley School District School Board.
“I’m just an overachiever, right?” she said jokingly.
She also joked about her GPA – a 3.146 – nearing pi.
“I seriously considered trying to drop my GPA to that just for the humor of it, but no, I’m keeping my GPA,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself while attending Barker.”