Freshmen at Athens Drive High School finding their way amidst a global pandemic

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Photos by Blythe Holloway

Athens Drive freshmen Blythe Holloway and Lyndsey Delmar have to learn to adapt to a new school while wearing masks and remote learning.

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.