Wishing for Water

Freshman observes student leaders and dreams of studying abroad


Freshman Colleen Gardunia. Photo and design by Emma Li.

Emma Li, Co Editor-in-Chief

Descendant of Blackie Gardunia, freshman Colleen René Gardunia is a middle child of five, lover of science fiction novels and swimming in warm weather. A self proclaimed bad liar, her great great grandfather was anything but. 

“Blackie is not his real name,” Gardunia said. “We do not know his real name. My last name came from a criminal, my great great grandfather who ‘stole cars and went to jail and lied about marrying an Indian princess,’ in his exact quote. So that is a total fake name coming from the Spanish Legend of this pickpocket. He made that name up in jail so that he wouldn’t get caught from running from the law. 

As a respectable member of society, Gardunia attends class every day, including color guard, which is an extracurricular with its own block in the schedule. Students learn to spin flags and rifles, and Gardunia begins first block by practicing technique. 

“I joined color guard because my cousin did it,” Gardunia said. “I saw her when I was six years old, doing rifle at my grandmother’s house. I was like, ‘I need to do that when I grow up.’ It’s great. I am not very good at flag, but I love doing rifle. I’m not the best at it, but it’s fun.”

Gardunia’s after school routine involves reading, spending time with her younger sibling, taking a nap and finishing homework at the last moment. As a fan of history, Gardunia dislikes historical fiction novels. 

“I love science fiction,” Gardunia said. “Science fiction is my favorite genre. And then probably drama. I cannot read historical fiction for the life of me. Historical fiction is my least favorite because it makes me angry that the events in it aren’t true. It seems like it’s actually happened, but it didn’t and that makes me kind of confused.” 

The history of Gardunia’s life has origins in Huxley, Iowa. 

“Whenever I think about my childhood, I usually think about running down the road, going to my neighbors’ or chasing on bikes. I lived there till I was eight. And then I moved to St. Louis, going into third grade.”

A semester into high school, Gardunia is for sure in medias res. 

“I think I’ve grown up,” Gardunia said. “I mean, I’m not the same three year old; I’m not reading picture books anymore. I think that my social skills have grown just by being around so many kids and having to deal with being in arguments with friends, or just talking to everyone and being professional. Also, at the same time maintaining a social life, doing work, preparing for my future and actually caring about what I want to do in my future. I’m still not fully grown; I still have a long way. I’m only a freshman. I have three more years to grow in high school before I become an actual adult, and I think that I’m excited to see how I grow up here.”

In a family of five siblings, Gardunia has the perspective granted to the middle child where childhood memories happen together.

“Whenever my older sister comes home from college, I feel like I’m like a kid again,” Gardunia said. “Like, I’m reverted back into fourth grade self. She graduated college, and all of us being in the house together really makes me feel like, ‘Oh, I’m, like, young,’ because like, my sister is so old. But once we’re all together, it doesn’t feel as old because we are older, but when we’re together, we’re joking around, having fun.”

With the eldest taking a gap year before beginning graduate school to get a teaching license and the next sister poised to begin college the following fall, Gardunia has given quite some thought to future plans. 

“I love thinking about studying abroad,” Gardunia said. “I want to do a lot of studying abroad in college. I want to go to the American School in Italy, and do that for some time in my college life. Or maybe there’s this college in Scotland I also want to study abroad in. I think that it’s just a great opportunity to study abroad. I think that it’s really important. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

What to study in particular remains broad. 

“I want to do something in business,” Gardunia said. “I have no idea yet. Probably management is the best for me, I think.”

With management comes leadership, and Gardunia has already begun to observe how that manifests within this school. 

“I can totally talk about what makes a good leader,” Gardunia said. “You might be like, ‘Okay, you’re totally making that up just for this.’ No, I’m obsessed with this. I have a whole notebook where I put new notes in it. I’ll put who is a bad example of being a leader, or this was a really great example. This could be students or teachers, or just random people I see. It’s an obsession. I could totally talk about it for days.”

Last summer, Gardunia’s first exposure to high school life was band season that ties in with color guard. Extracurriculars, unlike most freshmen classes, have a variety of grades and positions in the mix. 

“It started because it’s all of these teenagers trying to be like adults, trying to lead other kids,” Gardunia said. “And I was like, ‘I think that this person is a great person, but they maybe aren’t made for this.’ So I started to read books about it, watch TED talks, I would watch all the psychology things about this.”

Despite the appearance of criticism, Gardunia views it as an observational log much like a journal. 

“I have a long way to go,” Gardunia said. “I could totally recognize that because I’m writing down all these notes about people, but I would do worse than them. I think that I have a lot of time to grow and I’m trying to put myself in places where I could have an opportunity to become a leader if I want to do that. I think that I have the potential, but right now I’m not the best. I kind of suck at leading people. I’m kind of, I’ll even admit it, I’m a little bit controlling.” 

The ability to recognize shortcomings does not end here. 

“I want to be great and successful, but I hate reaching out to people,” Gardunia said. “I really want to be successful in my career. But I’m afraid to take risks and embarrass myself in front of other people. I don’t want to be embarrassed. I hate that feeling. It’s one of the worst feelings, being embarrassed and being like, ‘Why did I say that?’ But I’m such an extrovert, except I won’t talk to anyone I don’t want to. It’s a very bad quality of mine. Like, I love to talk to people, I will talk to almost anybody. And the exception is people I don’t like.”

Setting boundaries comes in many forms in the digital age. 

“I also love to talk and hang out with people, but I don’t like to hang out with people on the weekend other than the people I’m really close with,” Gardunia said. “So, most of my weekend is talking to those people and no one else. Or, I love to talk to people, but I will leave people on delivered or opened for like weeks and weeks before replying.”

Gardunia’s ideal world focuses literally on how the world could be different. 

“I’d probably make more water in the world,” Gardunia said. “I would love more lakes and rivers and streams because I love to go swimming. I’m not a very good swimmer, but I love swimming. It’s so fun because you can gather with people and do all that. I also wish that there were more trees to climb on, or trees that it would be perfect to build a treehouse in. That’s just like a dream of mine to just have all the perfect trees to climb in and sit in. I would love to have more trails in this world. Oh, less cold. I don’t like the cold. I love warm weather. So basically summer, fall all year round. Spring is kind of too muddy for me. A lot of them are about nature. I know these are really little simple things.”