Freshman year must focus on building roots

By Sarah Peace
Principal, Mercy Academy

Making the transition from grade school to high school looks much different than most of us remember from when we were students. The existence of smart phones and social media is all this current generation has experienced, and how they navigate their everyday lives is unlike any previous generation. Students born between 1995-2012, known as the iGen (in reference to the iPhone and the easy accessibility of technology), knows no other life than that which occurs over their smart phone.

For students today, relationships are primarily maintained online through social media leaving many students fearful or uncomfortable in building face-to-face relationships. This dramatic shift experienced by the iGen has made it increasingly difficult for students to connect with others through meaningful and authentic experiences.

With endless entertainment at their fingertips, students have very little pressure to engage in new friendships. Although high school students may not know how to articulate this loss of community, they can certainly feel the effect.

As Catholic schools, we have the unique ability to provide opportunities to build a strong community in which relationships are at our core.

Here are some pointers to help build roots and establish your place in your new community:

  • Freshman year is awkward, so why not embrace it? The benefit of being a freshman is that you are facing the unknown, but you can do it together with your classmates.
  • Get involved! The best way to make connections and meet new friends is through extra-curricular activities. Research shows that those who are involved in sports or clubs report more happiness and less stress.
  • Embrace retreats and service experiences. These experiences are some of the first, and most powerful ways in which you can engage in meaningful, face-to-face conversations with your classmates.
  • Communicate with those around you. Freshman year will always present new challenges due to the nature of the transition from grade school. When you feel that you are struggling, communicate openly with your teachers, counselor, or parents.
  • Attend fun school events with friends. Relationships take time, but they begin with a smile and a willingness to initiate new friendships. Ask a new classmate to attend a game, the fall theater performance or some other fun event on-campus. Focus your energy on in-person experiences and make a goal to invite three new people to events outside of school.