Freshmen at Athens Drive High School finding their way amidst a global pandemic
The transition from middle school to high school is considered stressful enough by many, and with COVID-19 added into the mix, ninth grade students are in uncharted territory. Prior to February 15, 2021 all Wake County Public School students were required to attend virtual classes via Google Meet and complete work through Canvas and Google Classroom. Sporting events did not allow the presence of spectators, pep rallies were vetoed and for freshmen, there was no in-person orientation to become familiar with the campus being attended. These changes, dating back to August of 2020, have affected students both physically and mentally, and freshmen at Athens Drive Magnet High School are living proof.
“I expected freshman year to be scary, but also very fun…COVID-19 allowed me to ease into high school for the first time and meet people gradually, but I have not been able to see some of my teachers and a lot of my classmates,” said Blythe Holloway, freshman at Athens Drive High School.
As a competitive swimmer outside of school, Holloway has been accustomed to socializing through daily practices (often twice in one day) and swim meets. Fortunately, the Athens Drive swim team was able to compete this season, as long as they carried a smaller group of individuals than in previous years. Holloway gained a spot on the team (one of few freshmen who did so) and managed to accomplish personal records, build relationships among other Athens students and ease into the life of a Jag.
“Swim team was very fun, even with few people, but I’ve only gotten to attend a couple meets,” said Holloway.
The three Wake County swim meets, held at Triangle Aquatic Center, were a source of excitement amidst the restrictions of a global pandemic. Despite the positives of these three meets, however, it is difficult to neglect the fact that past swim seasons have included six competitions, a higher number of swimmers and bonding experiences such as pre-meet pasta dinners. This issue of less social gatherings goes for all sports, as teams allowed less players and more regulations due to health and safety concerns. In addition, as teams cut down on players, the amount of freshmen able to compete in a sport they are interested in decreased significantly. This could lead to a lack of exercise in individuals, as well as a lack of social stimulation in developing young adults.
“I have met so many great people through sports, however, I barely even know my classmates’ names,” said Logan Smith, freshman at ADHS.
Alongside the lack of sociability brought on by COVID-19, there has also been a new, challenging learning environment. Students do not get the opportunity to make connections in the classroom, whether that be with table-mates or teachers. During Google Meet lectures, the majority of students do not have their cameras and microphones on, meaning their appearances, identities and opinions are kept concealed. Furthermore, with classes being taught over a computer, students are having a difficult time paying attention and completing assignments.
“I was not expecting the hard task of staying focused while looking at my computer where I find myself getting easily distracted,” said Smith.
In previous years teachers have been in the classroom to prevent students from being disturbed by cellphones and other distractions, however, with COVID-19 forcing learners online it is up to the students to self-discipline. The freshman year of high school is monumental in forming a solid base of good grades to prepare students for a higher education, whether that be in college, trade school or another endeavor. With decreased participation comes a deflux in grades, creating problems for ninth graders who want to be successful inside and outside the classroom.
Regardless of the harm caused by the pandemic, many students, freshmen in particular, have found ways to bounce back and make the school year enjoyable. Asynchronous days, socially distanced sports and virtual spirit week are all representative of light amidst the dark of the pandemic at Athens Drive.
“COVID has shown that we can come together and overcome changes, and that teamwork is a powerful thing,” said Smith.
Athens Drive ’21 graduates navigate hectic senior year
The 2020-2021 school year has been an experience unlike any other. Athens Drive students have had learning, athletics and social events disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors have been especially unlucky when it comes to events being changed and disrupted.
Many seniors at ADHS are upset that they will not be able to partake in senior traditions such as prom, a normal graduation and the ability to have a regular senior year in school with their friends. The stresses of senior year and applying to colleges are enough as it is and the removal of activities seniors look forward to doesn’t help minimize these feelings of pressure.
“I have been looking forward to prom my whole high school career. I’ve been told it’s one of the most fun nights of high school and for us to not be able to have one both junior and senior year is really disappointing,” said Olivia Raper, senior.
Along with missing out on crucial senior activities, 12th grade students are struggling to focus in online classes knowing that graduation is only months away. It is hard enough for those graduating soon to focus on classes in person as it is, so to add online classes on top of that makes it nearly impossible. Senioritis, to many, is even more severe in 2021 seniors compared to previous years.
“Online learning has been tough to keep up with because there are so many distractions. When in person, we were able to have conversations with the teacher and bond with classmates but when learning online, it’s so much harder to create these relationships, in turn making it a lot more difficult to stay on task. Now that graduation is coming up quickly, school is so much harder to focus on compared to previous years,” said Sam Bost, senior.
Many changes have also been made to senior year festivities. Graduation, June 10, has been moved from the Raleigh Convention Center to Jaguar Stadium. Not only has the location been changed, but the class is split up into two different groups. The first group, graduating at 8 a.m., consists of those whose last name begins with A-J. Following this, the second group, graduation at 10 a.m., consists of those whose last name begins with K-Z. Each student is allowed four tickets for family and friends. The separation of the class has sparked some backlash, as students won’t be able to watch those in the other group graduate after working and bonding with them for the past four years.
“I find it really frustrating that I’m not going to be able to watch a lot of my friends I’ve known for the past four years of my life, some even longer, graduate. We’ve worked so hard together throughout the years and to not even be able to watch them receive their diploma is a real disappointment,” said Adam Shefet, senior.
The effects of COVID-19 on the 2021 graduates heavily outweighs those of any other class. The fun and excitement of senior year is, for the most part, taken away from this years’ 12th graders, something students look forward to from freshman year and on. The combination of a separated graduation, cancelled prom, the loss of pep rallies and a changed homecoming and Friday Night Lights are memories that the Class of ‘21 will never be able to have normal memories of.
Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances of 2020-2021, Athens Drive seniors and parents are still working hard to make it a memorable experience. In accordance with CDC guidelines, senior parents are doing all they can to make the year as “normal” as it can be by organizing an outdoor student breakfast and other activities that otherwise would have been taken away from seniors. Not only this but other students have taken it upon themselves to create outdoor activities that aren’t affiliated with ADHS to promote senior year fun such as “Senior Assassin,” a game in which seniors have to spray their targets with water guns before a deadline to survive and advance.
“Obviously there have been a lot of changes to the year this year but it’s not like we can do anything about it. My classmates and I all wish we could have had a regular senior year but I still think we’re able to make the most of it,” said Mitchell Huggins, senior.