Three freshman girls showcase the positive spirit of the Class of 2024


Amidst the daunting back to school season, the crisp fall breeze carries with it the promise of classic high school traditions that mark the beginning of the year like nothing else. Hunting through sparkling racks for the perfect Homecoming dress, placing the finishing touches onto the poster guaranteed to sweep a potential date off their feet, donning the most overpowering collection of items to match the football-game theme—it’s a taken-for-granted given come September. 

But with a pandemic sweeping the nation, and imposing it’s ruthless grip upon the safety of the “Forest Hills bubble,” this year simply won’t match its predecessors. And while it breaks the heart of every student, especially the seniors who never thought they’d lose these final milestones, this year’s freshmen, the Class of 2024, are embarking on a high school experience like no other. 

All of the firsts have been swiftly stripped from them, leaving them with a freshmen year bare of all the festivities and color that usually adorn this notable first step. 

This loss and its ramifications are near and dear to Tz Cumbo’s heart, as the freshman class president. She’s leading a council that bears none of the responsibilities normally assigned to it. 

“It’s kind of weird cause we don’t really have anything to do right now,” Tz said. “No one on the council does. Because we’re pretty much here to plan Homecoming, Prom, Winterfest, spirit days, you know? And now we just—we can’t do anything.”

But as she grapples with this startling reality, Tz can see the disappointment of losing the firsts her classmates have been idolizing, and she’s taken it upon herself to put back into place the things that she can. 

This first year of high school may be nothing like her class envisioned, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a promising year nonetheless. Already, she is feeling the energy of reuniting with a portion of her classmates and beginning on this remarkable journey. 

Her outgoing personality and desire to create a welcoming environment are propelling her forward and equipping her with all she needs to be a leader among her peers. 

“What I’m doing is, most of the classes I’m in, I’m trying to make it fun, [and make sure] everyone feels comfortable there,” Tz said. “I’m the type of person who talks all the time in class. I talk to everyone. I always hype everyone up, make jokes, you know. That’s a fun thing to do.”

And Tz’s not the only one in her grade striving to find the silver lining among the dark clouds. 

Freshman Clare Sherman had her own set of expectations that she’s learning to set aside. Her classes are just a bit harder without the after-school help she used to be able to depend on, and the split hybrid schedule has left her separated from most of her friends. 

But she feels blessed to have lunch and fourth hour with a few people she knows, and although masks come with their own set of challenges, she knows their impact is important, and she’s grateful for them. 

“I’m just trying to stay positive,” Clare said, “and I hope it’s going to turn more normal next year. I think [my friends] are handling it the same way, just staying positive and having an open mind towards the rest of the years of high school.”

However, it’s not easy–becoming acquainted with a new building, new teachers, and new classmates, all while facing regulations that don’t always make sense and new methods that everybody’s trying to learn. Clare even admits to becoming lost on her first day, but with a little help from some teachers, she made it to class. 

But this lost feeling is one that isn’t confined to within the walls of the school. The new slew of programs her teacher’s are testing out has made online days nothing short of downright confusing. The teachers are also becoming acquainted with an entirely new way of doing their jobs, and while Clare appreciates their valiant efforts, the difficulty surrounding communication has been a detriment to her. 

“I was expecting the teachers to be more talkative to you and help you with the online stuff more and explain it a little bit more,” Clare said. “It’s a little confusing because they’re all using different websites, like Google Classroom, Clever, and all the random things. It’s hard to keep up with it.”

Even with these added complications though, Clare has found benefits to online school: she’s discovered she works better with a little more freedom and the opportunity to complete assignments on her own time. She’s learning to master the new way of learning that this year is ushering in, a skill that fellow freshman, Saniya Mishra is no stranger to. 

Saniya’s schedule includes classes such as AP Stats, APUSH, and Writing for Publication. But rather than feeling overwhelmed, she knows that this is simply what works best for her. The class load doesn’t phase her much, and neither does the unusual experience of school under COVID-19 regulations. 

On top of that, Saniya decided to test the waters of a new sport this year.

“I have started Cross Country this year, which has been fun,” Saniya said. “This is my first year doing it, so I’m not exactly sure if we were doing anything much different. By this point we’re not really keeping our masks on because when we’re running, we need to breathe a lot.”

But outside of Cross Country, Saniya has been pleased with the ways in which her classmates adhere to the regulations. She thinks that by social distancing and wearing masks, everyone is contributing to an atmosphere with lower levels of unnecessary worrying.

Alongside her fellow classmates, Saniya is creating a culture of positivity. And Tz and Clare seem to agree that this difficult beginning will bring their class closer together. They all have the optimistic energy that will bring them through the year with beauty and grace, and they all have high hopes that it can only go up from here. 

“It’s different from what we had last year, but I think it’s starting out okay,” Saniya said. “I’m sure it’ll get much better as we [go on].”

“I kind of think [that] probably when we’re seniors, it’s all going to be gone,” Tz said. “We’re all going to have it again. There’s always a bright side of everything.”

“I’m just looking forward, looking on the bright side,” Clare explained. “I think it’s all gonna turn out to be okay in the end.”