Letters From the Class of 2020: Isabel Coberly


“Oh, you go to Latin? Isn’t that place like $50,000 a year?” 

We’ve all been there—answering “Latin” when someone asks where we go to school and being met by a not-so-subtle judgmental tone. If someone’s heard of Latin, chances are they know at least one thing about it: it’s an expensive private school. 

I made the decision to come to Latin after finishing 4th grade at Whittier, a public elementary school in Oak Park. My options were either to go to Latin (a pretty sweet deal for me because my dad’s an employee) or to continue in the Oak Park school system. Even though Oak Park is known for its great schools, Latin was the obvious choice. Since making that decision and starting at Latin in 5th grade, I’ve spent much of my time here trying to reconcile my school pride with my knowledge of the stereotyped privilege we all experience just by attending Latin. No matter what neighborhood we’re from or how much we pay in tuition, we all experience some privilege simply because our school has resources that many others don’t.

I know this fact to be true. But at the same time, something in me is unsettled when outsiders imply that Latin hands its kids a perfect life on a silver platter. In my view, Latin doesn’t guarantee us a successful future; it presents us with the opportunities we can use to get there—opportunities like teachers who love and care about us, administrators who are open and understanding, and an education that gives us a head start on a college curriculum. 

But these opportunities are just that: opportunities. Chances. Possibilities. Latin’s true privilege issue reveals itself in students who take these things for granted and who fail to realize that it’s up to them to make use of those opportunities. 

Next month, I’ll graduate and move on to the next chapter of my life, but I won’t be leaving Latin behind. I’ll take with me the mentor I found in Dr. June, the role model I found in Mr. Edwards, and the friends I found in Ms. Vela, Ms. Fields, Mr. Kendrick, Mr. Schneider, and many other faculty members who I’ve had the chance to get to know during my time here. I’ll take with me the writing skills that my humanities teachers helped me develop and the skills of expression and leadership that the Theatre Department encouraged in me. And, of course, I’ll take with me the friendships I’ve made in the loving, ever-resilient Class of 2020. 

Let’s be clear: I found these relationships not because Latin handed them to me, but because I invested in the opportunities the school gave me. Throughout high school, I bugged my teachers after class and found out that they’re actually pretty cool people who care about me and my future; I spent much of my free time this year creating a fire hazard in Mr. Edwards’s office as my friends and I sprawled across his limited floor space; as an awkward freshman, I dove into a musical about a murderous barber and found support and love waiting for me in Latin’s performing arts; I put effort into my Latin experience, and the school rewarded my effort in ways for which I’ll always be grateful. 

Going to Latin is a privilege. And after struggling with that knowledge for a while, I finally understand as a senior that the only way to accept and deal with your privilege is to avoid sitting back and letting it go to waste. To all the students who aren’t yet graduating: there are opportunities in front of each of you that you are lucky to have. Don’t be ashamed of them, but don’t assume they’ll always be there. You get out of a Latin education what you give, so don’t imagine that all the rewards will be dropped in your lap without your having to work for them. Bug your teachers. Build relationships. Engage. And never take a Latin education for granted.