A fresh(men) start: Class of 2024 begins high school virtually

A+fresh%28men%29+start%3A+Class+of+2024+begins+high+school+virtually

By Ben Shapiro, Staff Reporter

On June 10, 650 eighth graders closed their laptops. On Aug. 31, 650 freshmen reopened them. The unique ways in which the Class of 2024 has been introduced to high school are unlike the experiences of any previous classes.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students started off their freshman year virtually. The school board cancelled activities such as Move Up Day, the Freshman Picnic and Freshmen Orientation which prohibited the freshmen from touring the building. Without prior exposure to the school’s environment and students, freshman Laila Awad has struggled to picture herself as a member of Conestoga.

“It’s hard to process that I’m in high school because I haven’t actually ever been there,” Awad said.

Feeling as though you actually attend high school is arguably one of the biggest factors in getting the cliché “high school experience.” Without a sense of community, that experience can be lost. Logging on to the first day of high school from the comfort of his own home, freshman Timmy Corben acknowledged that after all of the build up, the new school year has been a letdown; it is not what high school is supposed to be like.

“I was definitely excited to go (to school) on the first day, but honestly, it just wasn’t really fun,” Corben said. “It’s sad in a way because we’re not really living out our lives.”

As the first couple weeks of school progressed, the ability to form connections with others was limited. Starting high school online has created social difficulties for many students. Freshman Riley Neilon stated that maintaining a balanced social life is now up to the individual student; the forced social interactions required by in-person school do not translate to distance learning.

“I’m sitting in my room and on my computer all day and just not interacting with people,” Neilon said. “If we were in school, we would actually meet new people and experience lunch. There’s just no way to do that virtually.”

The lack of social interactions has contributed to the ways in which the experiences of the current ninth graders are undeniably different from previous classes. Taking note of this, the administration and teachers have worked diligently to bolster a sense of community and normalcy. Freshman Kat Nguyen explained that, despite the unanticipated situation, the school has provided many resources that have helped her.

“Having a Peer Mediator has helped to introduce me to new clubs, and I really liked having that opportunity,” Nguyen said. 

Conestoga connects freshmen with peer mediators, upperclassmen who help create a safe and welcoming environment for all members of the school community through programs that promote positive school climate and school unity. Nguyen deeply appreciates her peer mediator and enjoys having access to upperclassmen who can provide her guidance as the year progresses.

“The transition went fine for me because I have a Peer Mediator who has emailed (me) a lot to help (me),” Nguyen said.

It is understandable that some students feel uncomfortable with the situation at hand. Many freshmen feel lost, disappointed, or like they missed out on an amazing experience. To those students who feel that way, current ninth grader Alice Richards offers a word of advice:

“I think it’s better to think about it positively because yeah, you missed out on summer, you missed out on being with your friends… but this whole experience is going to be something that changes everyone. You’re not going through this alone,” Richards said.

Freshman Alice Richards studies for AP Biology. Despite the unanticipated format of high school this year, Richards tries to look at the overall experience positively.

Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected]