Staying in the Game: Athletes from career centers maintain Comet connection through sports

Senior Aneesa Barge, a Great Oaks student, throws the shotput for the Mason track and field team.

Savannah Libby | The Chronicle

They’re still Mason Comets even though they do not attend school at 6100 South Mason Montgomery Road. Many Mason High School students choose to further their education at a career center like Great Oaks. 

For these students, it can be easy to lose a connection to friends and their identity as MHS students. However, one way that they are able to maintain a close connection to their home school is by participating in one of the many athletic teams at MHS. 

Great Oaks is one of the largest career and education districts in the United States with four large campuses in Southwest Ohio.  It is also a place where many Mason students choose to study career education programs ranging from firefighting, cosmetology, occupational therapy, and construction technologies. 

For many Mason students, when they choose to study at the Oaks they lose a connection to their home school. But due to the partnership between the Oaks and local districts, students can still participate in extracurricular activities since the career campuses do not offer athletic teams. 

Senior Aneesa Barge, who is studying occupational therapy at the Oaks, is a thrower for the Mason track and field team. After transferring to the Oaks, she continued to compete for the Comets. The Ohio High School Athletic Association allows home-schooled students or those who attend a career campus to compete for the district where they live. In Barge’s case, since she attended Mason through her sophomore year and still lives in Mason, she can compete for Mason’s athletic teams. 

Barge found that many of her classmates shared her experience of attending a career center while also being an athlete for the school district where they reside.  Barge said that Mason sports helped to settle her anxiety about transferring to Scarlet Oaks, the campus located in Sharonville.

“Playing sports has kept me in touch with everything [at Mason],” Barge said. “I feel like one of my biggest fears transferring to Scarlet was that I would be so out of touch with things and I would feel so left out from my friends or events the school were having or even the daily gossip of the day like I used to have for all my years at Mason.”

Barge cited her previous relationship with the Mason coaching staff as a factor in her continued involvement with the team. She said their support and consistent communication have allowed her to enjoy her athletic experience.

“Having a good relationship with my coaches was something I always wanted in my high school experience,” Barge said.  “So that’s always [helped in] connecting to me in all my years, especially this year. They’ve helped me a lot with me still being involved in certain school things, either with mason or great oak things.”

Senior Jackson Harper is studying early childhood education at Great Oaks, where he enrolled following his junior year at Mason. He is on track to obtain an associate’s degree through his Oaks program. 

Harper has continued to compete for the Mason Track and Field team as a thrower through his transition. He said that maintaining his relationship with his teammates and coaches has allowed him to keep a sense of belonging to the Mason community.

“I’d say [that the friends I have gained in athletics are] one of the few things that still anchor me to the school beyond the memories and experiences I’ve attained from Mason,” Harper said.

Choosing to attend a career center had many trade-offs for Barge. Even though she may miss out on some of the day-to-day happenings at MHS, she feels that her involvement on the track team helps her stay connected and maintain bonds with her friends.

“I still feel connected with my friends in an athletic position and a genuine friendship,” Barge said. “Although I may miss physical events and experiences at the school, I still feel connected to my teammates at Mason.”

Photo by Savannah Libby