Not-so-fresh start

In the midst of a pandemic, freshmen get a different kind of introduction to high school.

Freshman+Anthony+Acevedo+takes+his+photo+for+his+student+ID.+Freshmen+struggle+to+experience+normal+high+school+experiences.

photo by Anthony Acevedo

Freshman Anthony Acevedo takes his photo for his student ID. Freshmen struggle to experience normal high school experiences.

High school is about preparing for college and making memories in a matter of four years. Freshman year is where it all starts: new beginnings, football games, new friends, pep rallies and so much more. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the traditional freshman experience to a halt. 

Changes to the current school year were made by both the Florida Department of Education and Principal Robert Frasca, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. These alterations impacted the student body in many ways, especially freshmen. For most, the transition from middle school to high school did not go as planned.

Freshman Seminole Connect student Jackson Moss attended the virtual orientation and was disappointed because the event seemed underwhelming. 

“I was expecting just a bigger welcoming and just a more celebratory thing going on,” Moss said. 

Freshmen have had to find their classes and navigate campus on their own this year because there was no orientation for them to attend. One freshman, Drew Klopfenstein, walked around campus trying to find where his class was when he realized he was in the wrong building the whole time. 

“I went into the building and realized all the numbers were wrong,” Klopfenstein said. 

Students have had to work around more restrictions on campus, as well as adapt to new class activities.

“I have limited the borrowing of calculators and construction tools,” Geometry and Trigonometry Honors teacher Heidi Grasso said. “In addition, I have limited the amount of class circulating and currently limited partner and group work in person.”

Grasso made these changes to her classroom this school year in an effort to keep her and her students safe. She made these regulations on her own because of COVID-19 that she usually did not have to do in a “normal” school year. She also decided to provide at-home assessments instead of students doing them in-class.

“The hardest thing since school has started is being able to get good help with things when I need it,” Moss said. 

One of the challenges as a freshman is to get used to a different set of expectations, a higher level curriculum and more homework. Compounded with distance, and more students behind a screen then in a classroom, the problem intensifies. Yet, Grasso has made it a goal to give both Seminole Connect and Face-to-Face students a similar experience, finding it important to be patient.

Seminole Connect students have to learn online through teacher lectures so teachers may not be able to see everyone that is in their classes which also makes it difficult for teachers to learn about their students. 

“I have had a hard time connecting more closely with all students as I have done in the past. I don’t see faces with names, but I am working on ways to improve this,” Grasso said. 

The freshman class, despite having never experienced these events first hand, have heard about the high-school exclusive activities. Getting together with friends at homecoming, or cheering along at pep rallies with the football teams are events that are popular among many.

 Students have found ways to still have fun, overcoming the challenges presented by COVID-19. Klopfenstein has gone out of his way to talk with many different people so he experiences the same social interaction he would at one of these events. Football games and pep rallies were such a huge part of the freshman experience that this year’s exposure is much more different. 

“There are a couple of friends that I have that are older than me that go here so it made the transition easier,” Anthony Acevedo said. 

Throughout all of the chaos, students have still managed to find ways to make their start to the 2020 school year easier. Knowing older students and having friends at school with them struggling as well has made it easier on Face-to-Face students Acevedo and Klopfenstein.

Many freshmen remain optimistic about this year, even though the start of the year has not been ideal for them

“So far, high school has been very fun and I’m excited for what’s to come,” Acevedo said.

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