Kujichagulia is the second principle of Kwanzaa, and it means self-determination. (It’s pronounced like koo-gee-cha-goo-lee-yah.) Specifically, it means defining your personal interests and making decisions that are in the best interest of your family and community.

This year is my final year of middle school, and that meant that I had to start looking at high schools in my district. A lot of people (basically teachers and other parents) offered their opinions, and I looked into each option given (although I will admit that I looked into some more than others). It eventually came down to three schools: the high school IB program (at the school I’m currently attending), a performing arts school (which is my top choice), and a school with a strong focus on biotechnology and allied sciences.

When I was looking at middle schools, I just looked at the schools that I wanted to go to. This year, I looked at not only the schools I wanted to go to, but schools that would be convenient for me to attend. For example, the science school is pretty much next to our house. It’s a short walk, and it’s a good school. However, although I have to admit science is much more interesting than I once thought (particularly genetics and coding) it’s still not my primary interest. Then there’s the IB program. It’s a good school, I’d be able to play for the same volleyball team, I’d already know the teachers, and I already go there, so I’m familiar with it. Then there’s the performing arts school. I’d get to major in writing, take four years of creative writing, and it places just as much emphasis on arts and performing as it does on education, and I think that’s really important.

Each of the schools are great in their own ways, and that meant that this year, it was time for me to make some big decisions. In seventh grade, I imagined that the performing arts school would be the top choice and the IB program would be the second, since my family hadn’t yet moved near the sciences school. When eighth grade started, I imagined that the science school would be my first choice, followed by the performing arts school, followed by the IB program. By November, shortly before the choice application window opened, I imagined that the performing arts school would be first, followed by the science school, followed by the IB program. If my beginning of the year decision had been my final lineup of choices, that would’ve been a choice made in the best interests of my family. All in all, though, this journey of choosing and applying to high schools (and it’s been a long journey, and I’ve changed my mind a lot) based on my interests is me further defining my personal interests. Volleyball and science even factored into my decisions: two interests I hadn’t even known that I had last year. This year was definitely the year of my defining my personal interests. Or, as Kylie Jenner would say, this was the year of me “realizing stuff” about myself.


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