The transition from middle school to high school is a turbulent and mentally taxing time for the vast majority of students. Apart from the increase in rigorous academic expectations, there’s the matter of attempting to navigate an entirely new building, and the expectation to become involved in a new and unfamiliar community.
For freshman Paulina Diesen, while these emotions were present, she also faced the approaching transition with excitement and a sense of feeling that she was finally home.
“[I was] kind of [nervous] but I was also kind of excited,” Paulina said. “It’s just so much easier to [spend] the next four years in the same school. Before, you’d spend two years there, and then you’re out of it; you’re going to have to learn it all over again. But this time it’s final. These are your final four years. You can spend it in one place, and it’s just easier.”
And Paulina hasn’t hesitated to make the most of her high school experience. Her interests spread far and wide, and she isn’t afraid to get involved in activities that catch her eye. She’s enrolled in several higher-level classes, including Honors English 10.
When she was in seventh grade, Paulina took the SAT to test out of her regular English class, and since then has been a grade ahead. In eighth grade, she made the trek to the high school every day to take English with the grade above her, and as a result, she’s closer with the current sophomore class.
Paulina’s proficiency in English is accompanied by a strong affinity for reading. She even goes so far as to describe herself as a “reading freak.” Paulina doesn’t limit herself in terms of what books she’ll read, and instead prefers to dip her toes into the waters of many different genres.
“I don’t have any favorite books,” Paulina said. “I love all books. Sometimes I’ll have a favorite, like the last one I read, and [then] I’ll read the next one and that one’s my favorite. And I never get a favorite.”
And as high school finds Paulina with a full plate, one venture that consumes a substantial portion of her time is cheer.
Six years ago, when the unrestrained curiosity and willingness that comes with being a third-grader led her to accompany her friend in joining cheer, Paulina found the sport that would spark unbreakable bonds between her and her team.
“I’ve made so many good friends from cheerleading [that] I would never have met before and ever since then we’re all best friends,” Paulina said. “When you start cheering, you get to know each other really well because you practice so many days a week together, you have to go to all the games together, and if something goes on we tell each other. So we’ve become really close, kind of like sisters.”
And years later Paulina still loves the thrill of cheering alongside her close friends during football games. Her motivation strengthens under the support of her parents, watching from the stands.
Paulina’s parents have been a rock and strong force of love ever since they adopted her and her sister when she was six years old. While they may not be biologically related, their emotional bond transcends all else.
“I was adopted from Russia,” Paulina said. “So it took [my parents] so long to get us because they had to go to Russia twice and stay there for a few weeks. It was a big deal for them. And then we moved to St. Louis and then [after] about a year in St. Louis we moved here, and I love it here. So I’m happy they moved because now we’re close to grandparents [and] cousins. So I’m just really thankful for them.”
Paulina loves to spend time with her mom on the weekends, going to her for advice about the rocky world of high school. Similarly, she knows her dad is always there to talk to. She is endlessly grateful for the encouragement and unconditional love they show her.
“I tell my dad everything and he’s always there for me to rant to or talk to when I have a bad [day],” Paulina said. “And I basically tell [my mom] everything, like every night I just kind of fill her in on what happened in the day, and then she gives me advice.”
With a strong group of friends and family to rely on, Paulina is equipped to flourish in high school and in life. She has the resources to pursue her dreams, both big and small. From a short term aspiration to take Gone Boarding to a tenacious desire to someday visit Australia, there’s a whole world that Paulina hopes to explore.
“I just kind of take it day by day,” Paulina said. “Whatever comes up I’ll deal with it [and] I put my full effort into it. Cause if you don’t make the most of it, nothing’s [going to] happen for you that you want to happen. If you want to do anything in life, you’ve got to work hard.”