Herbert David Sowe, class of 1969, sadly passed away on February 18, 2019. This past fall he sent us a story recounting his experience at Wasatch Academy. Below is Herbert in his own words sharing his experiences, memories, and the lasting impression Wasatch Academy had on his life.
From West Africa to Wasatch Academy
I was born and raised in Banjul, the Gambia, West Africa. I obtained an academic scholarship to attend Wasatch Academy for the Fall of 1968. I experienced a cultural shock upon arriving at Wasatch in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. This is an experience that a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment that is different from one’s own or may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life. After some time, I became accustomed to the new culture and developed routines. I had never seen snow in my life until I arrived in Utah. Living, studying, and working in the United States of America can be very different from The Gambia or the rest of the world and one learns how to combat culture shock while studying in the USA.
My Wasatch Academy high school experience was not like the ones that you see in movies. Most of the people in my school had been there since the 9th grade and I am happy to say that I developed friendships with most of them and they were great people. Everyone was friendly and I never saw any of the students by themselves. In other words, everyone was friendly and no one was left out. Everyone had at least one person to talk with and I made sure to try to talk with as many people as I could because I wanted to make as many people smile as possible. While people do tend to have their own friend cliques, it wasn’t hard to communicate with anyone because everyone knew everyone else.
There were some people who disliked Wasatch because there wasn’t a lot to do on campus, but I liked it. There were a lot of rules and chores that were assigned to everyone. This made the students more responsible and accountable for their actions. Entering Wasatch, I was a super shy person, but I learned to become more confident by talking in front of my classmates.
Life Lessons Learned
My most valuable school experiences weren’t academic. They were all about people – social skills, respect, self-worth, empathy, and realizing my own potential. On the sports field, I learned about winning and losing graciously. In the classroom, I learned that doing your best counted far more than academic ability. My experience was much different than others I spoke to, not because we took different classes and had different teachers, but because we had different friends and participated in different activities, we all learned more in high school than just academic things.
Because of the teachers who believed in me, I also learned that I was capable of more than I thought. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to communicate with the public or colleagues that I later encountered in life as a Regulator for both the County of Los Angeles and the State of California.
During my time at Wasatch, I had some really good times, but my best moments were experienced in a particular class during my senior year. I was basically a new student in these kinds of classes and also learning American English, which was slightly different from the British English that I grew up with. I remember my first assignment in this class. I had to give a presentation and I did not want to do it. Finally, when I went to make my presentation in front of the class, I was afraid, but when I finished it, it really made me feel good for the effort I put into it. After that, I felt so much better because it made me realize that I can do whatever needs to be done. The things that I learned from my teachers at Wasatch made me realize that I could overcome my fears and have trust in myself.
Wasatch creates a picture of a positive school climate. When you walk onto the school campus, you can immediately get a sense of belonging by watching the interactions between the students, teachers, and administrators. Wasatch provides the norms, values, and expectations that support social, emotional, and physical safety. The students, families, and educators work together to develop and live a shared school vision. The teachers at Wasatch model and nurture attitudes that emphasize the benefits gained from learning.
Shaping Who I am Today
All in all, I feel like my high school experience was great. I will always thank Wasatch Academy for shaping me into the person I am today. It was a good time in my life and I appreciate them for helping me to grow – spiritually, mentally, and physically – and giving me the foundation for the rest of my life.
After graduating from Wasatch, I attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, on an academic scholarship. I graduated with a Baccalaureate in Biology, and a Minor in Chemistry. By pure coincidence, one of the people in my circle of friends at Wasatch, Forrest Cuch, was my roommate at Westminster College. That made it easier to adjust to college life, and we are still friends to this day.
After graduating from college, I moved to the Southern California area. I worked for 20 years in the private sector, then decided to obtain employment with the County of Los Angeles as an Environmental Health Officer in the Public Health, Environmental Health Division. After working for 26 years as a Regulator for the State of California/County of Los Angeles, I retired in January of 2014. Then, in August of 2015, my wife of 33 years, Janice, and I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where we now reside.
In the words of his classmate Forrest Cuch “I will miss you my wonderful friend!” that sentiment is felt among the entire Wasatch Academy community. Although he may no longer be with us, we are honored to have been able to share his words and experience.
Herbert David Sowe 1948 – 2019.