As school ends, another generation of freshmen feel the weight lift off their shoulders. The pressure and anxiety of their first year of high school is over! Typically, many have found a strong community by the end of the year, and feel much more comfortable in the school environment around them as Sophomores. However, with the class of 2024, things may be a little different. I reached out to 3 different former freshmen, and asked them about the details of their first year of high school.
To start things off, I asked in a general sense, How was your freshman year of high school? Class of 2024’s Kellen Kirby offered an insightful retrospective: "Freshman year was definitely a learning experience, I didn’t have any real expectations for this year so I just went along with the flow of things. It was definitely a little weird being in a class with such few people and where no one was talking. But I am really thankful for my teachers who tried to make it an engaging and fun experience. My overall experience for my first year of high school would be described as revealing, I learned so much about how I operate and how my family does as well." (Kirby)
On a similar note, 2024’s Katie Hedrick realized this about her freshman year: "My school year was continuously getting better as the months went on. Once we went back in person my motivation went back up. I tried to stay positive with the best I could do but to be honest it was frustrating at times. I did really like my teachers though!" (Hedrick)
And the final answer to the initial question came from 2024 class president Grace Givens, who although was disappointed with how the year started, was super happy about the return to in-person learning, and is excited for her freshman year in the fall: "My freshman year was definitely way different than I thought it would be, obviously I didn't get as many “firsts” as I wanted to, as far as first dance, first day (in-person), first football game, things like that. Once we got in person my year got so much better and I felt like I had part of my head back."(Givens)
It looks like while the start of freshman year was rough with distance learning, many students felt a lot better with the return to in-person learning, and are excited to experience more of high school in their sophomore year.
A big part of freshman year is establishing communities with students at school. Bella Vista has tons of different clubs, sports and more to join and build friendships with other students. However, with a whole semester of distance learning, a delayed sports season, and a lack of a physical club day, it seems like the 2020-2021 freshmen were at a major social disadvantage. I asked these same students about their experience with trying to branch out to BV communities, and what clubs they joined. I also asked how it compared to earlier years of school interaction like the beginning of middle school. Givens offered a very positive experience with a BV sport that happened later in the school year: “My water polo team was the best thing that happened this year. That’s where I felt my true community in BV and like I really was a part of the school.” (Givens)
Similarly, Hedrick also found a strong community in BV water polo, which made her feel much better about the school year “I was lucky enough to play water polo with some amazing girls. Even though the season was cut short it was great and I think it really helped me. My coaches were also great.” (Hedrick)
Finally, Kirby offered background in his success with finding a community, but admitted it was difficult with the abnormal school year. However, sports and clubs made a big difference by the end of the year: "I have always gone to relatively small schools where everybody knows everybody, so integrating in the school's community has always been relatively easy. But going to BV, it has been difficult to integrate myself into the community. Sports have definitely been helpful for me, I played on the JV soccer team this year, as well as running track and cross country. Doing this has allowed me to make connections with many different people. This has given me a whole new group of friends which have made it easier to get into the BV community. Joining clubs has also allowed me to incorporate myself into the school. They have also taught me different leadership techniques. Link Crew and the Key Club have helped me immensely in that area. Both of those clubs have been a great experience and have really enriched my high school experience." (Kirby)
So once again, we are seeing a sort of pattern. Despite freshmen being at a major disadvantage at the beginning of the year, it seems that with the return of in person learning, as well as sports, students were able to jump into communities and find a strong place.
Lastly, I asked each student about their hopes and plans for their Sophomore year, and it looks like students are looking forward to experiencing the more social aspects of high school, but now through the lens and perspective of a sophomore. Givens is optimistic about the fall year, and is excited to truly start her high school experience: “Next year I'm really excited to get all my firsts and just feel normal again, and like I’ll really get to experience high school!” (Givens)
Kirby is excited about making more connections with students on campus, as well as returning to some pre-pandemic pleasures: “One plan I have for myself would be to join more clubs and try to make connections with different people outside and inside of school so I can get a melting pot of experiences and knowledge. I also cannot wait until we can stop wearing masks.”
Finally, Hedrick plans to make more strides in the classroom socially, and is excited for a more normal classroom environment overall: "Probably more interaction in classrooms. It was hard to get to know people this year and it was pretty quiet in my classes most of the time. I'd like for it to be more like a normal classroom where you can go and sit with your friends. I just want to be positive and hope most people can get vaccinated so we can move forward!" (Hedrick)
As we kick off summer, many returning students to Bella Vista are incredibly excited for the potential of a typical school year, including the new sophomores as well as the incoming freshmen class. BV Newsroom wishes Broncos a great and safe summer, and we’ll see you guys in the fall!