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The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

Surviving freshman year: Tips and insights from a sophomore’s perspective

Elizabeth Zemunsky
In their English 9CP class, freshmen Hailey Havranek, Amanda Weis and Lexi Gilliam, read along to “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. The students in Nicole Schlautman’s class had to follow along and be ready for their part to come up.

With just over two months of high school under their belts, some freshmen have adjusted well, while others are still struggling to keep up with all that encompasses being a high schooler.
As a sophomore who had to adjust to being in high school not very long ago, I completely understand those who are still trying to find their way. I understand it even more since I was a new-to-Gretna student seeing that my family moved here from Washington State the summer before my freshman year. For months on end, I struggled with opening up to other classmates and getting to know everyone. I didn’t know what to expect because how I lived my life in Washington was very different from how people live their lives in Nebraska.
While I attended the open house at Gretna High School before my first day, when school did start, I was still overwhelmed by all of the things I needed to learn and memorize. I was worried about forgetting where classes were since Gretna High was much bigger than the middle school I attended back in Washington. I was worried about fitting in and making friends; trying to squeeze my way into somewhere I felt I didn’t belong.
On my first day, I felt a rush of worry as I entered my first class. Many students knew each other from middle school, so I felt like I wouldn’t fit into their already-formed friend groups. So, I kept to myself. I was the quiet wallflower who just focused on their work to get good grades.
After a couple months, I still didn’t feel I fit in or that anyone would want to be my friend. However, I realized that I needed to open up, be active in my classes, and speak up. As I did this, people noticed and started to talk to me. I got to know more and more people, was more comfortable, and was able to lean on them to help guide me through the rest of the year.
After speaking to a fair number of freshmen this year, I realized that many of them are having some of the same issues that I did during my first few months of school. The good news is, based on my experience, loneliness and self-isolation don’t have to last forever and more than likely won’t. Eventually, things will feel normal and everyone will find their place, they just need to be open to finding it.
With the many different types of problems, some freshmen have throughout their first couple months of high school, fitting in can be one of the hardest. Asking teachers, staff, or fellow students for help on different obstacles can be reassuring as they are there to help you, or might have the same problem so they can get help as well.
Here are a few tips for students who are still struggling with the transition to high school:

Don’t be afraid to talk to teachers/staff. They are here to help, it’s why they became teachers.
“A lot of them [freshmen] will pretend like they have it all figured out and not ask for help, so I try and create opportunities where they have to,” English teacher Michaela Weber said.
While students talking to staff can be beneficial for teachers as it helps them get to know their students better and understand their needs, it is also good for students to build relationships with their teachers. Having good relationships with faculty can help students adapt and feel more comfortable, and it becomes easier to ask for help when needed. Once that connection is made, students then have their “person” that they can go to with concerns, troubles, or even to celebrate with.
“I have a lot of students from years past that will come and ask me for advice for whatever’s going on in their life, especially my D&D kids,” Weber said.
After the relationship is formed, it can also lead to opportunities that help in the future, such as recommendation letters for jobs, scholarships or college.
Pick classes that interest you. Although freshmen don’t have as many courses offered to them as upperclassmen do, it is important to be interested in the classes that you take. Electives can be a way for students to explore their interests and opportunities. Besides choosing an elective that really interests you, the added benefit is that most, if not all, of the students in that class also like that content. It is easier for me to talk to people when they have the same interests as me; it makes it seem like they understand where I’m coming from.
If a student is currently in an elective class that doesn’t suit their interests, they should look into other electives that are offered by going through the curriculum handbook to find one that they would enjoy to replace it. Then, they need to fill out the Add/Drop Classes Google Form, which is located in every students’ Counseling Google Classroom. The add/drop window for second-semester classes will open on Monday, and the link to the form will be posted then. The window for requesting a change will close on Friday, Nov. 3.
Learn how to balance workload. Make sure to know your limits and when to know how much you can handle. Take breaks when needed; these are very valuable when schedules get filled with many different tasks. Apps such as Reminders or Sticky Note, which are available on student laptops, are great resources for students and staff to keep track of their tasks. Reminders even let the user set priority levels for their tasks and order them in order of the most immediate task that can be done later. Doing this can help keep track of what needs to be done at a later time.
Pay attention to important events. Keeping track of when to do tasks can keep an individual on a good schedule. It can also help to know when assignments’ due dates so they aren’t overwhelming. Again, utilizing the apps above are great tools that are available, but also following the school calendar and school events calendar found on the Gretna East website.
If you’re feeling down, talk to a counselor. The two counselors Mrs. Melissa Hansen and Mr. Brandon Shostak are available not just for your academic needs, they are also there to listen to any struggles you are having in your personal life. They understand that there are a lot of stressors in the world and can offer strategies to deal with them.
“Students of this day and age are experiencing more and more challenges,” Counselor Melissa Hansen said. “With social media, with pressure from society to go onto college, but then I’m seeing a shift in students themselves.”
If a student needs to see their counselor, all they have to do is ask their teacher to give them a pass to go, or they can schedule an appointment in advance by emailing [email protected] or [email protected].
“We welcome walk-in business,” Counselor Melissa Hansen said. “It doesn’t mean you have to have a pass to see us, if you just wanna come in and talk about the baseball game, that would be awesome.”

The transition to high school can be a challenging experience for freshmen as they navigate new surroundings, academic expectations and social changes, however, following these tips and opening up to others are good steps to overcoming those freshman-year blues.

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About the Contributor
Abigale McQuain
Abigale McQuain, Reporter
Abigale McQuain is a sophomore at Gretna East High School and is a second year journalism student. She joined the Wingspan staff because she enjoys writing and photography and thought it would be a good opportunity to explore her options in the journalism realm. Her favorite part of school is getting to see her friends and go to English class. Outside of journalism, she likes to binge watch movies and hangout with friends.   
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