Stuck in a Bubble

Cady Armstrong

Junior Emilie “Emmie” Porter now parks her bike in the bike rack outside this school without locking it, but for Porter this practice in Carmel is a broad departure from her previous home in Albuquerque, N.M.

“I’m not used to being able to just leave my bike outside. When I first got it here (to Carmel), I rode my bike to the grocery store and they were like, ‘Oh, you can just leave your bike in front of the store.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean? You can just leave your bike outside of the store and the bike will be there when you get back?’” Porter, who moved to Carmel in December 2019, said. “I’m used to locking it and making sure I hurry back to make sure it isn’t stolen. Albuquerque is a very different environment than the town of Carmel itself.”

Porter is not alone in her belief that Carmel is a safe city. In 2018, Town & Country magazine ranked Carmel as the best place to live in the United States in terms of safety, standard of living and public education. 

English teacher Grant Benefiel reflected on the difference in experiences of teaching in England at Wycombe High School in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, versus at this school.

Benefiel said, “The schools I’ve taught at are very different. CHS has impressed me a lot with the resources and opportunities that it presents to its students. There is practically a club for every interest you could possibly have. And if on the off-chance the school doesn’t have the club, it is super easy to form it yourself. That isn’t something that everywhere else has. Carmel students are very lucky to have these at their fingertips.”

Comparatively, Junior Marina Saweeros has lived in Carmel for her entire  life.

Saweeros said, “I’ve never been to a school outside of the CCS district and sometimes forget that other places are different from Carmel. It is important to educate ourselves about issues in the world and recognize that the rest of the world does not live the way we do.”

Porter agreed with Saweeros, stating that she feels as though Carmel residents live in a bubble.

Porter said, “I definitely think the ‘Carmel Bubble’ exists. In Carmel, I’m never worried that I won’t get home safe, whereas in New Mexico if you went to the grocery store alone as a teenage girl, you would literally be kidnapped. Where I’m from, there is a common understanding that teenage girls don’t go out alone after the sun sets.”

However, according to Benefiel, Carmel is not without its drawbacks.

“CHS is a great school but it certainly is massive. In a way, students don’t know each other. In some of my classes, I have students that just don’t know one another at all,” Benefiel said. “Near the start of the year, I did a partner activity and I had multiple students who didn’t know who their assigned partners were. At the other schools I’ve taught at, it is not like every student knows everyone else, but they at least know of each other and could recognize who they were.”

Saweeros said she agreed with Benefiel that CHS often feels large.

Saweeros said, “There is definitely a sense of disconnect. It is rare that I recognize someone in the hallways during passing periods, let alone know them personally. Whenever someone asks  me, ‘Oh, you go to Carmel, do you know this person?’ It is rare that my answer is ‘yes.’”

Porter said she agreed that this school can be overwhelming at the beginning.

“The transition was rough. I left every person I’ve ever known, and went from 100 kids in my grade that I went to school with since kindergarten to going to a school where I have 1,000 kids in my grade and knew absolutely no one,” Porter said. “The size of (this school) was very overwhelming.”

In fact, more people than ever are moving to Carmel. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Carmel has nearly quadrupled in size in the last 20 years from 26,756 in 1990 to 93,510 in 2018.

Porter said, “My parents definitely chose Carmel specifically as opposed to other suburbs around Indianapolis for the schools. The quality of education you get for public schools doesn’t get much better than that.”

Saweeros said, “I definitely appreciate and recognize that I’m blessed to go to CHS. But I also think it is important to recognize (areas) where Carmel has room for improvement.”

Additionally, according to Porter, moving to Carmel has helped her grow intelectually and as a person.

“To be honest, I was scared at first. I was nervous that I would be super behind everyone else and that I wouldn’t have anyone to sit with.  But the amazing teachers at CHS are so willing to work with students and all the programs (this school) has to get involved really eased the transition,” Porter said. “When my Greyhound Connections leader gave me their number and told me I could eat with them, CHS seemed a lot more welcoming and that helped me calm down.”

Furthermore, according to Porter, this experience has motivated her to help others new to this school as well through joining Greyhound Connections.

Porter said, “I want to pay it forward to other new kids. Moving is scary. But for me, moving to CHS was the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

Sam Hawkins