How are Freshmen Transitioning?


Freshmen at Latin are tasked with learning the ropes of the Upper School while integrating into the diverse communities within the school. However, this year’s newcomers will face an additional, unprecedented transition: remote learning. With over 40% of the class being new students and without an in-person orientation, freshmen must lean on teachers, advisors, and most importantly, each other, to foster a community within the class.
Latin, like many high schools, plans a ninth grade orientation to help freshmen learn the school’s policies and schedule, meet the class and faculty, and answer their questions. All freshmen are entering an unfamiliar environment. The orientation, ideally, prepares them for the many firsts on this new journey. However, following reports of positive COVID-19 cases in Latin’s community, the school made the difficult decision to make orientation remote.
“When we learned of these cases, the school had not been advised on how many community members would need to be quarantined,” explained 9th and 10th Grade Dean Bridget Hennessy. “Uncertainty led us to move orientation to an online program in order to prioritize safety.” Unfortunately, without this crucial social gathering for the newly formed class, some ninth graders don’t yet feel they’ve had a chance to truly join the community. Freshman Max Solovy said, “The most challenging part of this unusual start to high school has been not having the opportunity to meet with classmates or teachers in person before school started.”
Nevertheless, freshmen are feeling optimistic toward creating bonds during their first semester at Latin through Zoom. Freshman Aidan Hart said, “I have met a lot of new people at Latin through Zoom, and I have even started to communicate with them outside of school.” By making time to meet new students, a robust community will form quicker than expected. Max Solovy was similarly able to find an online community, saying, “I participated in the Sports and Conditioning class, captain’s soccer practices, and cross country, and I’m fortunate I had these opportunities to meet new classmates and form connections.”
Teachers and administrators have also noticed that students are expressing confidence and actively participating. To explain this quality of the freshman class, Upper School history teacher Milena Sjekloca theorized, “Lower social stress allows students to focus on academics. Then, if on-campus during second semester, freshmen will be able to spend more time navigating their social lives once already established in the classroom.”
Along with the need of a connected grade-wide community, freshmen hope to form closer bonds with their advisory. Freshmen advisors are tasked with fostering a positive and safe space for new students, and their role has never been more important. Adam Apo, an Upper School librarian and freshman advisor, said, “We are meeting remotely and doing a lot of icebreakers and playing games. We’re also making an effort to do 1-on-1 check-ins with each advisee.” Although the organic opportunities to meet new students in the locker bays, the quick chats in the hallways and stairwells, and the posters about school happenings hanging on the wall will not be there first semester, Ms. Hennessy encourages ninth graders to join clubs and affinity groups as a way to settle into the Upper School. Freshman Ellery Axel said, “I’m thankful that teachers have been reaching out and trying their best to get to know their students by posting feedback surveys and asking for our input.”
Despite the social and physical distance, ninth graders, with assistance from teachers, advisors, and each other, can look forward to an enjoyable year.