High school freshmen’s expectations surpass realities


Kamryn Harty

LOTS OF LAUGHS: Freshman Ella Mitchell and Frankie Soto discuss their Spirit week outfits for throwback day at lunch.

Every year, hundreds of incoming freshman flood the halls of Grady. These students will have their schedule permanently plastered on their lock screens. They may or may not know to avoid the staircase that leads to nowhere, and they’ll come into the unfamiliar halls of Grady ready for a fresh start.

Freshman Frankie Soto’s world was rocked this year when she came to Grady High School.

“I wanted it to be like [the movie] High School Musical,” Soto said. “But it’s not.”

Soto knew that, in contrast to what the iconic Disney movie portrays, there would not be flash mobs in the cafeteria, but she did expect the social aspect of Grady to be similar to what is portrayed on the big screen.

In her mind, the school would be separated into groups: the jocks sitting here, the cheerleaders standing over there, and the theatre kids talking amongst themselves. But as weeks at Grady passed, it became evident to her that this was not the case.

Freshman Ella Mitchell agreed that her vision of perpetual separation between social groups and grade levels is not dramatic at Grady. She was surprised to find sophomores, juniors, and even seniors, sitting in classes with her.

“I really wasn’t expecting to have upperclassmen in my classes,” Mitchell said. “Now, I think it’s fine because I know we’re the same level of skill. It’s not as terrifying.”

At the same time, Mitchell is aware that there is a stigma associated with being at the bottom of the food chain.

On the first day of school, when crowns perch atop nearly every senior’s head and whistles drape around their necks, the freshman are reminded of upperclassmen dominance. Seniors pass humiliating stickers out to freshman, labeling them for the rest of the school to identify.

“I thought [the seniors] were being nice at first,” said Mitchell. “They were handing out stickers, and I thought ‘I love stickers!’ And then I read them and I thought ‘This isn’t very nice.’ Throughout the day, I got a baby rattle… and I knew it wasn’t supposed to nice.”

On the other hand, freshman Avi Friedman has had a different experience with upperclassmen. Friedman attended High Tower Middle School in East Cobb. This year, his family moved to Candler Park so that he and his twin sisters could enroll at Grady, a school he had never heard of before.

He says upperclassmen are friendly to him. Being on the Grady lacrosse team, he has started to familiarize himself with other players and has made new friends with teammates of all ages.

“The upperclassmen help me learn different techniques at lacrosse,” Friedman said.

Freshman are also starting to become more aware of their grades and the impact that the grades they make at Grady will have on their future.

“Grades actually matter now,” Friedman said, drawing a contrast between the importance of grades in middle school and high school.

Mitchell acknowledged that freshman year is the first year that GPA matters to colleges. She also noticed that at Grady, the homework load increased.

Her first year taking an AP class, Mitchell says that AP Human Geography, taught by Christopher Wharton, is a lot of work. For some freshmen, high school is the first time they start to learn proper studying habits and time management skills.

Soto says that in middle school, “They kind of baby you a little, and teachers are like ‘Here are the notes’ and give you guided notes and tell you what you need to write down. In high school, it’s whatever you know, you need to make sure you understand it,” Soto said.

High school is also a great opportunity for students to try new things. It has a notorious reputation for being the years where students find themselves, allowing them to dive into some of their interests and discover new things.

Grady is helping Soto uncover some of her passions. She is a member of the Ignite Club, focused on women’s empowerment, and the 500 Women Scientists club. Actively being involved in clubs and school events gives Soto a sense of school spirit. Likewise, Friedman was surprised by Grady’s abundant school spirit.

“I expected less school spirit,” he said. “I didn’t know we would have a student section [at football games]… and everyone has something that they’re wearing to support Grady…I think it’s cool.”

Although stepping into high school was a big change, these freshman have adapted well to the environment of Grady.

“The reality of high school is that it’s nothing like high school musical,” Soto said. “You have a lot more freedom. It’s different but good.”