We’ve all been there: Getting booed at pep fests, being called names like “Freshie” and “Fresh Meat,” receiving glares like you have a disease, being the bearer of allegations as the “most immature class ever,” getting lost in the halls, and of course, avoiding overcrowded intersections like the plague. The only way to become an upperclassman is to live through the freshman experience, and that experience is different for everyone. For some, the teasing, ribbing, and mild disdain from upperclassmen are interpreted as light-hearted fun, but for others, these initiations into high school may have more serious consequences. We know that the adjustment from middle school into high school can be difficult. We learn that classes are taken much more seriously, that it isn’t funny to be immature, and there are different expectations for behavior. High school students should have more freedom, but with that, comes more responsibility. To help freshmen make the transition to high school, upperclassmen can offer assistance when they see freshmen lost or confused, and act as role models for them. If we are truly a “Rocket Family,” it is natural for the upperclassmen to act as older siblings to the freshmen, “the babies of the family.” We should all be aware that whether other not we act kindly can drastically affect a person’s high school experience. Each of our writers reflected on his or her freshman experiences, and wrote about the most memorable aspects of their first year in high school.
Britney- (Class of 2022) Current freshman-
Silence is a lovely thing. It can be loud, it can be painful, but it can be beautiful in a way. No words spoken, yet it has the power to be audible as it veers. I was just there, what you would call a silent person with lots of unshared ideas swimming in her head, in an unfamiliar place filled with a variety of vulnerable, sensitive to touch hearts, including my own. I felt as if I didn’t belong here, in this neutral community, but it didn’t stop me from carrying a container filled with the medicine of laughter. Lunch was a hassle the first week and I easily found myself scrambling around the halls trying to find my classrooms. Academics currently, can be compared to the sensation of going up and down on a rocky yet smooth road. Somedays I am happy I had started off well in the category of grades, but there are also days when I am overwhelmed due to lack of organization and laziness on my part. There were lots of homework and assignments that I wasn’t used to at first, but I was thankful this was a given opportunity to learn time management skills (Pft I still procrastinate-whoops). However, academics didn’t really bother me that much compared to other issues. Not only was I one little lost bean in this environment, I was a lost being in myself. High school is a chance to grow into lovely sproutings of many different colors and I’m determined to learn and grow. In summary of my rambling, I am mindlessly parading around in my first year of high school (yes definitely with confetti), feeling incomplete in myself; I’m stressed out because of academics, yet I want to live on a mountain and laugh irrationally as I throw cheetos like snowballs at people.
Angelica (Class of 2022) Current freshman-
When I first entered John Marshall, I hated coming back to school. It felt like having to give up a freedom that went way too fast and my older siblings were incredibly negative about freshmen. I repeatedly heard from them,”Stupid freshmans did this, they did that, blah, blah, blah.” So I didn’t feel very exultant to go to a school with such a negative view on freshmen, especially the ones who came from John Adams Middle School, like me. The first two days I was there I was confused and wandered down the halls looking for all the rooms and feeling uncertain if it even was the right area. When I had found all the right classes, it was a big relief. It would have been too embarrassing if I wasn’t in the right classroom and I did catch myself being a bit self-conscious around others, seeing as I didn’t interact with them as much. My social awkwardness is too thick for me to speak comfortably around others. At first I did try to ‘put myself out there,’ but quickly gave up. It was stressing me to be around a large group of people, which I was never used to and probably won’t ever be. Probably. But my terrible social skills aren’t the only thing I’m worried about. Homework is another thing. Big projects and studying for tests and quizzes. They say freshman year is the easiest year; well, then my procrastination skills make it two times harder than it actually is. Coming from a school with no deadlines and fewer options, this is like a huge opportunity to become more involved in things, but it’s also difficult because I’m unsure. A fear of failing and old unhealthy habits still creep up sometimes, which makes me very hesitant. It feels like I can’t do anything right unless someone else has the same answers, although, on the other hand, I’m determined to do awesome. Overall, I have enjoyed my time here so far, but we all have bad days here and and there when we feel like those disgusting smelly papers found in dumpsters, but we can easily overcome it if we stubbornly insist to be optimistic.
Cole (Class of 2021)-
My freshman experience overall wasn’t that bad. I met some incredibly nice upperclassmen who taught me the culture and overall routine of JM. I didn’t have many expectations upon entering; all I really hoped for was more freedom than middle school. The only downside was having to realize the hard way that the grading system was way stricter, and how late assignments were handled here. I’m glad to say that met my expectations, though. Overall, my freshman year at John Marshall was really nice, because of the welcoming upperclassmen and teachers I encountered. I felt like I fit in after only a month of being at the school.
Sahra (Class of 2021)-
Freshman year. The year of experiences and firsts as well as meeting and surviving the crazy world of high school with new/familiar faces. My personal experience at John Marshall was a bit different than my peers, due to the fact of not going to the same school prior to coming here. Many already had established a group of friends which made it difficult to try to squeeze into a new group. The highlight of freshman year was the Pep Fest, Homecoming, as well as Finals week, regardless of the tests I was a nervous wreck for. The first year was really exciting, and I met some of my best friends. Even though high school was not what I expected it to be, with the Sharpay Evans at every corner and the huge social divide in the lunch rooms like in the Mean Girls scene, I did enjoy freshman year for what it was: exciting, (minus the bomb threats and bb guns).
Kadia (Class of 2021)-
Whoever said that going from a school you’ve been enrolled in for nine years to a high school where everyone knows everyone and there are too many cliques to count, would be fun most definitely has not lived through it. I, on the other hand, have lived through it and can confidently say that it was not the experience I was hoping for. It wasn’t that I couldn’t make friends, or was picked on by upperclassmen, or anything like that that made my freshman year different from any other year. It was the fact that I wouldn’t see all of the people I was used to seeing everyday for the majority of my life. The first quarter of freshman year was the hardest. I didn’t know anybody and I missed my old friends. I was always caught up in school, so I couldn’t really hang out with my old friends. It wasn’t until about second quarter when I was beginning to understand how high school worked and I was making more and more friends, that I was finally starting to enjoy seeing these new people everyday. The school community was fairly welcoming with the pep fests and football games. Sure, going to a new school after nine years at the one school was a difficult transition, but my peers and teachers made it better than what I thought it would be.
Hayden (Class of 2020)-
My ninth grade year was actually not as bad as I thought it would be. I found the students and staff to be incredibly helpful and friendly, and certainly high school as a whole was not as terrible as it had been made out to be by my peers. I can recall one specific occasion where I was lost trying to find my way to my next class on the first day of school. I was attempting to look at a map of the school, frequently looking down at my schedule, making an attempt to orient myself, when an older student stopped me and asked me if I needed directions, and helped me find my class. I feel that this is a great example of the the John Marshall community as a whole, or at least what it should be: always looking out for one another.
Julien (Class of 2020)- Going into high school was an interesting experience. As a kid coming in from a middle school that wasn’t John Adams, I was instantly at a disadvantage for acclimating to the “family” here. Even throughout my freshman year I didn’t branch out as much as I could have. Finding my stride only took a couple weeks, but it didn’t take too long. When I became a freshman, you could feel the school spirit in the air. With Christmas Anonymous(Now JM Gives) everybody was hyped. With stuff like the activity fair, we were able to find a club we liked and do something fun. Now things are harder to get involved in without already knowing someone in said club or group. In what we call the “Rocket Family” there’s always that younger kid, the one who gets put down, but being put down is what builds yourself as a person. So think about it, how did or how does your freshman experience define you? At least for me, I think, my freshman experience really laid the groundwork for who I am today.
Peter (Class of 2020)-
The most daunting experience of high school for me was often not the AP finals and essay deadlines. For me the hardest thing to acclimate to was high school itself. JM seems to pride itself on being a tight knit community. One of the most prevalent notions is “The Rocket Family.” Despite the hype over this idea, many at JM feel like outsiders to our community. One demographic in particular has been continuously ostracized at JM, freshmen. The fun that upperclassmen have at the expense of freshmen is at best lighthearted taunting and at worst complete hazing. We have all been new to JM, we have all felt the abuse and have all been the butt of a one sided joke. Despite this, year after year, we continue perpetuate this narrative. This is done to such an extent that oftentimes the fun at the expense of freshmen is seen as a rite of passage among upperclassmen. The transition from middle school to high school is hard enough without the toxicity of freshmen bashing. This issue is further confused by the expectation that freshmen should look to upperclassmen for guidance. While not all upperclassmen engage in the practice and not all freshmen are equally affected by it, the atmosphere perpetuated by this practice is still very prevalent. The issue is deeply embedded in high school culture, and it is not likely to disappear anytime soon. For the problem to get better requires awareness on the part of upperclassmen and an understanding of how their actions will continue to affect the legacy of JM.
Ms. Cassman (Class of 2011)-
I wish every freshman could have the experience that I did as a ninth grader eleven years ago. When I was a freshman at JM, the upperclassmen and staff prioritized making us freshmen feel welcome. First of all, there was a program called the Link Crew. Link Crew paired upperclassmen leaders with groups of freshmen. The first day of school was reserved for getting freshmen comfortable in the building. On the first day of school, freshmen met their upperclassmen mentors, who then led the freshmen through icebreaker and community-building activities, building tours, and Rocket expectations. Throughout the year, freshmen students then had an upperclassmen mentor that they could go to with questions and concerns. Secondly, all students were placed in an advisory period with a teacher. Advisory teachers worked with the same group of students for their entire high school career. As freshmen in advisory, we continued similar activities to the first day of school in order to support the transition from middle to high school. Best of all, advisory teachers took their freshmen students to something called Rocket Pride Camp. At Rocket Pride Camp, students engaged in several types of challenges and silly games, as well as learned the fight song and cheers. Rocket Pride Camp helped to build student confidence, and strengthened the bond of the Rocket family. Although freshmen were still teased, it was out of love and support from the Rocket family. If these programs were brought back, I think freshmen would feel more appreciated as members of the Rocket family like I did.
What happens to students during freshman year impacts them for their entire high school career. Students who fail a class in 9th grade are much less likely to graduate. We should all do as much to support the newest members of the Rocket Family as we can.