Highlands Taught Me the “Importance of Global Learning”
We took a few moments to catch up with Highlands alumna and current Oglethorpe University student, Kiana Perkins '13, and hear how Highlands shaped her academic journey.
Give us an update on your life! Where are you and what are you up to?
I am currently a senior at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, where I serve as the Senior Class President on the Student Government Association and a Lead Ambassador in the Office of Admissions. I am a Politics major, a Spanish minor, and I'm in the Public Health Concentration. This semester, I have been interning at the CDC in the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities division.
How did Highlands prepare you for your journey after your 8th-grade graduation?
After graduating from Highlands, I attended the Altamont school, and when I got there, I quickly realized that I was more prepared than students who came from other schools. I already knew how to write a research paper, how to cite correctly, and I was not afraid to participate in class discussions on day one.
One of the biggest things that Highlands prepared me for was the ability to speak in front of large crowds. At Highlands, students are on the stage from the time they are in the Family Center all the way through 8th-grade. While public speaking is intimidating for many people, by the time I left Highlands, public speaking was just as easy as talking to my friends.
Lastly, many of the social and service opportunities I was involved in at Highlands shaped the path I am on today. I was not scared to talk to new people and make friends, and I quickly got involved because I was so used to being involved in multiple things while I was at Highlands.
Why did you choose to stay at Highlands through middle school?
Simply put, I chose to stay at Highlands through middle school because I loved it. I started Highlands in the second grade, and by the time I got to the 8th-grade, my classmates were like my family. I did not want to leave them a year earlier than I had to. On top of that, I did not want to miss out on the 8th-grade experience at Highlands which includes the Capstone project, the trip to Dauphin Island, JUNA, and so many more experiences that other schools do not offer.
What is the most important thing you learned while at Highlands?
The most important thing that I learned at Highlands was the importance of global learning. As citizens of this world, it is important for us to engage with complex systems and ideals that we might not always understand. The term global learning is not meant to be construed as simply "study abroad", but it is learning about and immersing ourselves in the natural, physical, social, cultural, economic, and political systems that form this world and their implications. By doing this, we broaden our worldview and gain the essential knowledge to interact with people, texts, art, and other aspects of different cultures. Having a well-informed, well-rounded view of the world is essential, and at Highlands, this work starts in the Family Center. The Middle school trip and international summer trips are just two of the ways that Highlands produces global learning. When I was in eighth grade, I had the opportunity to go to France, Germany, and Switzerland, and that trip was very impactful for me.
What advice do you have for current students who may be considering Highlands for middle school?
The Highlands Middle school experience is one that you will not find anywhere else. If given the opportunity to go back and go to a different middle school, I would not have. My last three years at Highlands were some of my best. My middle school experience at Highlands, in many ways, solidified the path that I am now.
Describe Highlands in three words:
Caring. Community. Indispensable.
Share your favorite Highlands memory:
My favorite Highlands memory was in 2009 when they hosted Abracadafrica, a celebration of Africa and all the many cultures it represents. They turned the entire school into a museum of sorts. Every building served a different purpose. There was live music and dancing, traditional African food, African art, clothing, and so much more. This meant a lot to me because I am the daughter of a Liberian immigrant. It was wonderful to see so many of my friends and their families actively engaging in and learning about a place that means so much to me.