But when you got right down to it, the one that made the greatest impact on many of us was school.
My parents were ever-present in my life. I grew up in a tight-knit family who sat down at the table together at least twice a day, went to church every time the doors were open, and spent what in today’s world would be called quality time with one another.
Back then what that meant was that we talked to each other, played outside together, and shared our thoughts and dreams and hopes.
Of course we argued and had our disagreements and hurt feelings just like I suppose every family does, but we all loved each other and enjoyed spending time together.
But even with all that, school was still the biggest influence on me when I was growing up.
As a child, the education I got in the lunchroom and on the playground helped form me as much as any classroom experience.
When I was in high school, the extra-curricular activities were where I learned many life lessons that helped carry me forward into adult life.
A lot is being said these days about public education. I can say without any apology that I believe whole-heartedly in the public school system.
I know it is not perfect and I can see many of the defects the system has and problems that can arise for students in that environment.
But I believe the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. For the majority, the public school is the level playing field.
There are some students who don’t thrive in that environment, and there are other children whose parents prefer a different course. That is fine.
That is why parents can exercise school choice. There are almost 2,500 home schooled children in Cherokee County.
Another 821 students now attend the Cherokee Charter Academy.
But still, 38,405 attend our Cherokee County public schools, and I think for several years now they have been a sort of silent majority, just plugging along.
Part of that is because despite all the budget cuts and furlough days and larger class sizes, students here in Cherokee County have still been receiving a quality education.
Parents and students alike are pleased with the local school system. Test scores are up, graduates are finding themselves accepted at better and better colleges and universities, and the level of learning offered to students has won our school system an enviable reputation around the state.
Our school administrators deserve much of the credit for what has happened in Cherokee County public schools in the last decade.
Teachers get a good grade for their efforts too. The impact they have on the lives of their students is so important.
For me, public school also offers the valuable life lessons, and that is why I am glad my children also attended public school and had the chance to experience much of what I did growing up.
In the political arena these days the popular dogma we here from many is that it is time to allow parents full control of how their child is educated.
I suppose that would be fine if all parents were created equal. Public school gives every child who attends the opportunity to excel, often without a great deal of support from home.
As great an influence as school was on me, I can only imagine for a child with limited resources at home but the desire to achieve how much the educational process can matter in how he or she ends up.
The same goes for extra-curricular activities such as sports. When students have to pay to participate, it often means that those who might benefit most, find a way to get a college scholarship for instance, are left out.
More than 90 percent of the students in this county are educated in our public schools. Right now what I hear from many of them is that it is time for the emphasis to be put back on the public school system.
During the time my own children were in school, I came to think of the parents and students as the customers of the school system.
Part of what we paid was our involvement; part of course was our tax dollars.
What we expected in return was the best education possible for our young people.
I really hope we are not going to be short-changed in the future.
Because our students today are our future and they all need the best education possible.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.