I was about 5’ 4” when, as an eighth grader, I shadowed my brother Jacob, then a junior, at Dominican High School.

Now, a senior, I’m a foot taller. My shorter, eighth-grade self feels distant, but for more reasons than size alone.

My time at Dominican started with a prank from my brother and his friend. Jacob and his friend Sam explained to me that when I arrived, their math teacher, Ms. Supanich, would be standing by the doorway and I should give her a hug. If I did so, they said, the custom was that Ms. Sup would give me candy. They also told me that Ms. Sup is pretty much like a grandma who treats all of her students like spoiled grandchildren – a comparison with which I now agree – and hugging her upon entry was an expected courtesy.

So there I was, at the pre-calculus doorway, and noticing that Ms. Sup appeared to be non-threatening, I walked up to her and went for the hug. I’ve never been much of a hugger, and it ended up being a strangely close, two-handed handshake with the surprised Mrs. Supanich.

It was clear at that moment that hugging was not the custom. I was mortified, Jacob and Sam were in a state of ecstasy, and Ms. Sup quickly wiped the quizzical look off her face and went on to nonchalantly teach her lesson as I sat in the back, clearly averting all eye contact.

In the time since my shadow day, I have grown five years, progressing from conquering my fear of a doorway, transitioning to being an active Dominican student, and finally becoming confident in being my true self.

This transition and growth have been made possible through the teachers, staff and students at Dominican who have made my last four years so incredible. I have had teachers, such as Ms. Supanich, Mrs. Mueller and Mr. Gnadt, just to name a few, whose passion for teaching extends beyond their academic curriculum, who care deeply for their students and forge personal bonds with them, helping them prepare for the next test and for the rest of their lives.

I have the utmost respect for my teachers and this has led me to fulfill my responsibilities with the hope to have them reciprocate that trust to me as a student.

Dominican’s emphasis on faith has instilled a true, personal relationship with God in my life. This has been brought out by Dominican’s various opportunities to participate in retreats, service, Mass, social justice activities, campus ministry and daily religion classes.

Dominican has provided examples of leaders in faith with hearts so big they manage to care for each and every individual they encounter. These leaders have been not only teachers but other adults in the community – coaches, priests, Dominican sisters, and parents of classmates.

They have taught me many things — one of the most important of which is to find my call. Their love for where they are and what they do has taught me what a vocation is, a successful life, not the traditional success which society deems important. I have learned the importance of listening for my call, and recognizing that call when I hear it.

My friends have also taught me. They have taught me that it’s fine to be my true self and they have supported me.

When I walk into my first class wearing baggy khakis and a bright button down shirt, I can count on receiving a few “Hey, Dad” and “What’s up, Pop? Want to have a catch?” comments as they kindly tease me about my dad-like appearance.

They are friends who see me in first hour and don’t let me slip by unnoticed. We joke around together, but also buckle down for a study session when need be. They are there to crack jokes, but I also know they will notice when I need help. In the past four years, I have learned that a good friend truly cares for the other and places his or her needs before one’s own, and can expect the same in return.

My past four years has been a period of incredible growth — not even counting the foot that I’ve have grown.

I have become more patient, responsible and mature because of the Dominican standards. I have grown in faith, spirituality and understanding because of incredible examples of faith, opportunities to participate as an engaged member of my faith community, and my religious education. I have grown in my academic knowledge, become prepared for the future, and attained a greater passion for learning through dedicated teachers, interesting courses and various opportunities to apply what I have learned.

I’m 6’4” now, but that has been dwarfed by a different, far more significant form of growth.

(Liam is the second oldest of the four Scobey-Polacheck children. He is a senior at Dominican High School, Whitefish Bay.)