Flash from the past: Wilson then vs now


Hannah Frank and Shirah Lister

It’s a sunny August day, but instead of spending it outside, you’re walking into Wilson for the first time in over two months. After the initial dread and hatred sets in, a wave of nostalgia washes over you and you’re relieved to find yourself in a familiar setting. No matter what generation you are, the Wilson experience is like no other; 2010 alum Leonard Long and current senior Lily Perez give their insights a decade apart.

From renovations to staff changes to new rules, Wilson has gone through quite a bit. One of the largest changes, though, according to 9th grade Attendance Counselor Leonard Long, was the renovation the school underwent in 2011. “Aesthetically I think the school is much better. Compared to the old building that we were in this is like the Ritz Carlton.” 

But beauty is not the only aspect of Wilson that has been dramatically modified over the years. The demographics of this school have also shifted immensely. In 2010, Wilson was just over 50 percent Black, while this fiscal school year, 36 percent of the student body is made up of Black students. Yet despite these demographic changes self-segregation remains a prominent part of Wilson culture.

A mere look into the cafeteria shows the lack of racial integration despite the changes experienced. Self-segregation has remained present in all aspects of the school, as seen with AP and honors level classes, as well as extracurriculars. The ultimate Wilson experience, due to this self-segregation as well as lack of racial integration on the administrative level, remains dependent on who a student associates with. 

“Wilson is a place where you see different levels of achievement. You have kids going to Ivy League schools… You have kids who do other things, like not necessarily a traditional course of going to college.” Long said.

Perez and Long both noted not only the changes within Wilson but also the considerable changes they saw within themselves during their time at Wilson. “When I was a freshman, I didn’t really have a lot of planning [skills]… as I started taking AP classes my sophomore year, I found that time management and organizing were a lot more important,” Perez said. “I had to [become] a lot more diligent… as the rigor went up.”

For Long, “I feel like I have become a well rounded person here because of the opportunities with athletics and different programs, and the pure diversity of the school.”

In addition to the surface level changes Wilson has seen and we are all familiar with, such as the implementation of Yondr Bags and the addition of hallsweeps, this decade has also brought the change in school spirit. During the 2010s, Wilson shifted the pep rallies from being in the gym to being outside.

Towards the beginning of the decade (and up until very recently) Wilson’s school spirit and community had a much larger and more prevalent presence. With the change in pep rally location, though, came a shift in the school’s general culture, which Perez also expressed her sadness about. “I hope we get to the point where we have a strong school community again,” Perez noted.

Even though Perez and Long experienced Wilson in (very) different years, with different backgrounds, their ambitions and goals were both influenced by their time here. Perez mentioned her amazing experience with the Wilson theater program, and how it influenced her to desire to study theater in college. She now plans to major in theater studies and ethics, politics, and economics at Yale.

Similarly, Long highlighted how the rigor of his courses and the amount of extracurriculars allowed him to excel in college, due to the habits he created and the wide variety of activities he was exposed to. When reflecting on his time with Wilson, he emphasized his want to connect with young people, which ultimately led him back here.

Ultimately, despite the changes, Wilson is still the place that we all know and love. “It’s actually kind of part of my identity. I feel like it has become apart of me… I can’t hide that tiger pride,” Long said.