Henry Lyford, Graduated from West High in 2007
I went to West High and graduated in 2007. I took AP courses, played two varsity sports, and went on to a liberal arts college in Southern California after graduating. I enjoyed my time at West - and believe I got a good education - but I would not say my experience was typical. There is a quality gifted program at West that can make it feel like a separate school. For better or worse, it seemed like these students in the program (and I was one of them) received the best teachers, counselors, and general treatment by the faculty and staff.
There are a lot of distractions present when going to high school in Anchorage (having not experienced high school anywhere else, I can not say how many of these are typical of all public high schools). I believe all of the campuses are open, meaning you can leave as you please during lunch time. There are rules for leaving during other times of the day, but the reality is that it is not hard to leave when you please. The temptation to not return after the short lunch is always present, especially if the class is some terrible required course. Social scenes can revolve around sports teams and quality of extracurriculars is hit or miss. There is a gang presence at West but it is nothing like what it would be at an urban LA high school and you wouldn't notice it too much unless you were somehow involved with it. The life of a teenager in Anchorage is not unlike the scene depicted in Dazed and Confused. Driving is an important milestone and a lot of social gatherings happen outside. The winter can be a very hard time to be in school. Classes start at 7:30; at this time in December the sun won't rise for another four hours and the average temperature is probably 20 degrees.
I took the hardest courses possible, got top grades, and would not say it was too challenging. I think about 15% of students who start high school do not graduate, and only about 30% of the remainder go on to college, so even if you are in a class of 350+, you really should be in the top 30 students if you aspire to go to a good college. I believe if you are motivated and have your sights set on leaving Alaska for college, you can be successful at West High.