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Message from the Understory: Isaac Mukala '18
Posted 04/24/2017 01:00PM


By Allie Goodrich '13

For Isaac Mukala ’18, one way to look at academic experience is through the metaphor of a rainforest.

“Hear me out,” he said as he addressed the LA community during the Wednesday, April 19, Academic Awards Assembly for the Winter term. “Imagine the emergent layer being the upper echelon of high honors students.

“Then, there is the canopy layer: not quite A’s all the time, but still great students.”

However, “The understory,” he said, “is where it starts to get interesting. These are the students that prefer extra help and do their absolute best when they know they aren’t as gifted as the other students.

“That’s the type of student I’ve wanted to be: hard-working and ever-improving; always wanting to raise my level to beyond what I’ve previously established. The student who always wanted to live in the emergent layer—those are the real lions...the children who wanted to touch the stars, and didn’t care how far they had to go.”

As he spoke, Isaac drew on points of retrospection from each of his years at LA. He described his experience as a sophomore as “amazing” due to a newfound depth in his classes, stating, “[Combined studies] with Mr. Bashir and Mr. Culley brought me way more into English and History than I thought I could go.”

Being a junior has come with its own set of challenges, but “I make sure that I always have the ‘I want to succeed’ mindset going into every class,” Isaac said.

“I’ve had a blast in my other classes because I found myself really enjoying myself in them. Math, History, French, English—all put a smile on my face at some point during the week, which is how I get by.”

And, Isaac added, “As those who know me can tell you, I like to have fun at school.”

He then shared a poem he had written for the occasion, reflecting on the questions he’d found himself asking along the way: “When do you know that school is for you?/ I have no clue;/ Maybe it’s after you get that 96 percent on your math test,/ And you know you’ve done your best,/ Only to find out your best friend got a 97,/ And you go from being in heaven to…school.”

But that, Isaac continued, is exactly the place “where your dreams begin,” and where “the inspiration comes from within.”

“Keep in mind that your academic experience is up to you first and foremost,” he concluded. “There’s just no telling how far I’ll go.”

 

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