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Alumni Spotlight: Neva Gohel

Post Oak eighth grade class of 2007

by Shannon Neufeld, Communication Coordinator
From the January 22, 2010 edition of The Weekly POst

As a Post Oak student in Lower Elementary, Neva Gohel knew that her education in Montessori school was different from some of her friends. Neva now attends Episcopal High School and is in her junior year. But back then, it didn’t bother her—Montessori students are comfortable in their own skin.

“I knew that Post Oak was different from other schools and I liked it,” said Neva, sitting at the table with me in the Common Room. “I liked how fourth, fifth, and sixth graders were together, and first, second, and third graders were together…It was nice how you became friends with everybody—it was a close-knit community.”

Neva says she developed confidence, responsibility, and independence as a result of her years in Montessori. “Independence was a big one because with Montessori, you choose when you want to do your work, how you want to do it. It’s your decision. It’s almost your decision the whole way,” she recounts. “That’s different when you come to high school because there is more structure.” She said Montessori taught her structure and time management, allowing her to accomplish all her tasks in high school.

Now in a traditional-high school setting, Neva still feels different in some ways from the other students. “We’re kind of different compared to the other kids,” she says about herself and her Post Oak friends. “I don’t really care what other people think—I’m my own self. Especially at this age, everybody is a little insecure about themselves. Coming from Post Oak, I feel like it gave me confidence.”

Her transition to high school was a good one. Hard at first, she says, but it turned out well. “In the beginning, it was pretty difficult, freshman year, but I got pretty used to it the second half of the year,” she says. “Making friends wasn’t hard at all for me. At Post Oak, you learn to have an open mind and use your voice, and at Episcopal, that helped. And now I’m making good grades.”

In fact, she’s been on the honor roll all three years that she’s been there. Personally, Neva says she struggled with biology at first, but finds that she likes English a lot, especially after the preparation she received at Post Oak. She recalls participating in Middle School seminars. (Some Post Oak parents may recall this phenomenon from their Montessori Journey—parents and prospective parents read the book Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori by Aline D. Wolf, and then participate in the same seminar-format discussion as a Post Oak Middle School student would).

Neva said she misses that about Post Oak, “I actually would like that more,” she said, a sentiment shared by numerous other graduates until they finally return to it again in college. “In my English class, we do that a little bit, but I would enjoy that more. I think the seminar and the level of reading material was really good because it really helped for high school. Especially since a lot of books we read in high school, we read here [at Post Oak]. I think the books we read [at Post Oak], some of them were much more difficult than the books we’re reading in high school.”

In addition to her good grades, Neva made the varsity tennis team last year, and tryouts for this year are coming up. She worked at Baylor Medical Center as a volunteer in the lab for cancer research last summer. She plans to do an internship at a local TV news station as well. “I’m excited about that,” she said. Other outside of school activities for her summer include going to Small Steps Nurturing Center, one of the several community service sites she visited during Middle School at Post Oak. “I really enjoyed Small Steps and this summer I’m actually going to go back to volunteer,” Neva said.

Community service made a big impression on Neva. “I really loved how we took one day out of the week to go help others because it’s really important,” she said. “Sometimes we forget to help others and you’re constantly worried about your life, so you should think of somebody else. I think that’s really important.”

Travelling is a big part of Post Oak Middle School—nearly all graduates remember the trips as some of their best experiences. “My favorite trip was the D. C. trip. I loved walking around the city and the Lincoln Memorial, and the Smithsonian—and we did a White House tour, and the Capitol. We saw plays too,” she said, remembering one in particular in which the actors made fun of government officials.

The travelling is not replicated in high school, for the most part, she said. However, she and group of 25 high school students did get to attend President Obama’s inauguration last year. “I do miss the close community of all my friends, and going on trips,” she said. Recounting the trip to see the inauguration, she said, “We woke up at three in the morning thinking we’d get good seats…but I’ve never seen so many people in one place at the same time.”

When asked what she thought about the idea of opening a Post Oak high school, she said, “I think it would work well for some students, and maybe not for others. The close-knit community is really good. I really like that you’re in a small community and it would be great because for the transition from middle school to high school, you’d be with your friends.”

Community meant a lot to Neva at Post Oak. “I made lifelong friends at Post Oak. My friends, I mean, they’re more than my friends, they’re like my sisters because we’ve been together since first grade. And we had no choice but to be friends.” Compared to others, she said, a lot of others do not have friendships that are as strong. “And I think that’s because of Post Oak. We were together 24-7. We experienced everything together.”