There’s a light at the end of the tunnel: how FHC’s freshmen are making it through an unpredictable year

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Forest Hills Public Schools

Enduring a year notoriously filled with newness, this year’s freshmen are exemplifying perseverance.

Freshman Paige Harsevoort is just one of many students this year trying to find her footing in an unfamiliar building during a once-in-a-lifetime event. 

Of all things she expected to have to get used to during her first year in high school, a global pandemic was not one of them. Switching from middle school to high school is challenging enough in a normal year let alone in 2020 and 2021, and although Paige thought she had a semblance of what she was getting herself into, her freshman year has continued to surprise her. 

“I was not even really ready for a normal high school transition,” Paige said. “I have an upperclassmen sister, and she told me all these fun things that you do in high school, which is so much different than middle school. It was just kind of weird to be like, ‘Oh, now we’re doing this, and now we’re doing this.’ Now I have a whole new routine and then a whole new routine on top of that—it’s just so crazy.”

This year has been difficult for everyone, but the class of 2024 has been presented with the added challenge of navigating a new building with new people while having significantly less time in school to get used to the sudden changes. 

For Paige, the difficult nature of transitioning from middle school to high school has only been heightened by the lack of consistency in her school year.

“I don’t really like how we keep going back and forth [with] all in person, then all online, and then hybrid again,” Paige said. “I feel like we should just learn from our mistakes and just do one or the other because every time we go all in person we just go right back to all remote.”

Fellow freshman Hayden Bolter has also been overwhelmed by the unpredictability of his first year in high school. He’s noticed that the lack of stability in his school life has begun to seep into his life outside FHC, making it even harder to be able to catch a break from the constant pressure of being a student. 

“It has not felt like a year, but it’s been a year since this happened and it’s been tough,” Hayden said. “We’ve all had to adapt to three different types of school environments, [and the constant change] can mess up your sleep schedule [and] your eating schedule—it’s not ideal.”

This year has been anything but easy for Hayden, but the amount of time he’s spent acclimating to the undependability of his freshman year has given him a relative understanding of the true nature of high school.

Despite the notable absence of sacred FHC traditions like dances, parades, and public sporting events, Hayden no longer feels like a stranger to FHC. 

“I feel like I understand most of [high school],” Hayden said. “I don’t think the mechanics of it have changed too much, [so] I don’t think I’ve missed out on too much of high school, but I am definitely missing out on the traditional high school experience.”

For Hayden, what has had the largest impact on his growing comfort in an uncomfortable year has been the support he’s received from the school’s administration. 

Tasked with the difficult responsibility of having to please everyone, Forest Hills Public Schools Administration has definitely received their fair share of complaints this year, but from a student’s perspective, Hayden believes all the necessary boxes have been checked. He’s realized that he can’t expect perfection and that his current situation is the next best thing.

I think the school has done a pretty good job of handling things. They’ve been sending emails, and they’ve provided a lot for the kids. I think they’ve done a pretty good job given the situation they were given.”

— Hayden Bolter

“I think the school has done a pretty good job of handling things,” Hayden said. “They’ve been sending emails and they’ve provided a lot for the kids. I think they’ve done a pretty good job given the situation they were given.”

Claire Marvin, another member of the class of 2024, also feels that her freshman year experience has given her a reason to be grateful for what the administrative team has done for her. 

“I think the school has been handling [the situation] pretty well given the circumstances and how we haven’t had much of a warning for anything that’s happening,” Claire said.

Missing out on such integral parts of freshman year like first dances and first football games has definitely left a hole in the heart of the freshman class, but Claire is still managing to look on the bright side. Despite all that she and her fellow classmates have gone through this year, she’s glad to see that, of all things, her education has not been compromised. 

Claire is content with how her freshman year has gone from an education standpoint even though it may have gotten off to a rocky start. 

“[COVID] definitely made it harder to focus and get into the school mindset,” Claire said. “But, I’ve definitely gotten a pretty good education and I’ve learned all the stuff I’m supposed to learn, so I’m not too worried about [how this year will affect my future].”

Although FHC’s freshmen are finally finding their groove, they’re anything but complacent.

For Paige, the long-awaited return to everyday life is what has been her biggest motivator in persevering through this year, and with every passing day, the light at the end of the freshman year tunnel grows brighter. 

“When we get out of this whole COVID thing, we’re going to eventually go back to normal and then I’m going to be able to do things that I obviously couldn’t do this year,” Paige said. “I think [the return to normalcy] will make myself and my mental health a lot better because I’m going to get to go to football games and go to dances and just do a lot more fun things that a typical high schooler should do.”