WARNER ROBINS — The high school senior class at Westside Baptist Academy reviewed William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” on Thursday in English class for a test on the play this week.
After reviewing the plot, English teacher and senior adviser Robin Booker asked them to connect the themes of the play to their own lives.
“To achieve your dreams and goals, are you willing to compromise who you are or who God wants you to be?” Booker asked the group of nine students, who will be the school’s first high school graduating class.
The school, part of Westside Baptist Church on Dunbar Road, first opened a preschool in 2001. Westside Baptist Academy has added elementary, middle and high school grades since then.
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Today, the school has about 130 students, about 30 of whom are in high school.
“It’s like a family,” said senior Brett Mathews.
“100 percent,” chimed in senior Nick Wiatrek.
The school’s tightknit community impacts the students individually as well, Wiatrek said.
“We’ve been with these people so long, it’s been an influence on me,” he said.
“It’s harder to get away with things,” said senior Lindsey Shepard.
The same environment has pushed the students to reach their full potential throughout the five years Booker has taught at Westside, she said.
“They’ve gone from being kids without their own voice to ... now individuals,” Booker said. “They may not know the answers, they may not know who they want to be when they grow up, but they know how to search for that.”
“We’ve gotten more confident with ourselves, because we’re in a comfortable environment,” Shepard said.
Mathews said that he has been able to develop his singing, guitar-playing and public speaking skills during his time as a Westside student.
“When people have known you as well as yourself, they help figure out what you’re good at,” said Mathews, who plays in a praise band during school chapel services.
Mathews also said other students have explored their personal interests at the school, by doing community service at a nursing home, for example.
Along with that, the school has added a student council, microwave privileges between classes and allowed students use of a Coke machine on campus. This year, the seniors are also allowed to exempt their second-semester final exams with a class average of 70 percent or above. In its place, they will go whitewater rafting.
However, Wiatrek, Mathews and Shepard said they haven’t been able to earn senior lunch off-campus yet.
Academically, Westside is “pretty challenging, really tough,” according to Wiatrek, the class valedictorian. Shepard, the class salutatorian, noted that the difference between hers and Wiatrek’s grade point averages was a fraction of a point.
All of the seniors have been accepted to college, said head of school James Anderson, who will step down to do mission work in Africa after leading the school for five years.
Wiatrek will enroll at Armstrong Atlantic University to study radiology; Mathews will attend Macon State College and then transfer to Armstrong, also to study radiology; and Shepard will attend Macon State to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Though he graduates this month, Wiatrek said he will keep up with the school’s progress in the future.
“I’m looking forward to see how school will grow,” Wiatrek said. “It’ll be a good future the way things are going.”