My Roeper story is about learning how to be a part of a team.
I was a quiet and shy kid for about eleven of my fourteen years at The Roeper School. I focused on my work and had a small group of friends whom I loved dearly (and still do). It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I disrupted that same-old-same-old routine. At the insistence of coach Todd Dunfield, I joined the Varsity Cross Country Team.
The change wasn’t so dramatic at first. Although I enjoyed my first season, I still felt like another face in the crowd – even the very small crowd of Roeper Cross Country. But I couldn’t stay the same old Aaron for long. There was something about that tiny, trusting team that encouraged me to crack open my shell. In my junior year, I found myself taking on more leadership responsibilities. I joined the Track and Field team where I made similar strides (no pun intended). In my final season of Cross Country, I became co-Captain of the team. My motivation was simple – I was surrounded by amazing and dedicated people and I wanted to see them proud of their own hard work. They pushed me back in the exact same way.
It was a feeling of camaraderie that transcended the task at hand – after all, one does grow tired of the long Cross Country meets and even longer Track meets after a few years. I soon wanted to share all the determination and care in our team with the wider Roeper community. In service of my teammates, I was an eternal cheerleader and a regular contributor to Emery’s Roeper Community News. For the 2012 end-of-year assembly, I organized a team-wide rendition of (appropriately) Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” I always felt compelled to give the best to our team and to honor our special relationships. Five years later, most of us do not run competitively, but many of us still gather at least once a year to pick up where we left off.
This past year, I graduated from Oberlin College. I came back home to help run a community center on the west side of Detroit that provides free after-school programing, food, water, clothing, safety, love, and so much more to local residents. I’m part of a new team now that is both totally different and yet oddly similar to the ones I was a part of at Roeper. It is different, of course, in terms of the scope of our work and what we hope to accomplish. But many of the team dynamics feel quite familiar. We support and laugh with one another and we connect with each other deeply. In service of this new team, I again feel pushed to offer myself in whatever way I can and always give them my best. I’ve thought about Roeper a lot since I’ve been back in town. The more I think about my Roeper experience, the more I realize how absolutely foundational this institution was in making me the person I am today.
Aaron Appel, Class of 2012