Our 9th grade retreat brings Randolph's freshman class together and helps welcome them into the Upper School. I asked some of our freshmen, [now juniors] to share what they were expecting out of the Upper School before the retreat and if the retreat maybe changed their perceptions about starting Upper School. Here is what they had to say:
"Before the 9th grade retreat, I felt excited to be a high schooler on a new campus. I was absolutely happy with the fact that uniforms were not needed. But, I also felt confused and anxious. Those feelings were not due to the new environment, the different people, or the fact that we, the 9th graders, were going back to being the youngest, the newbies, on campus. The anxiety and the confusion was because I felt a little intimidated by my teachers.
"Being a 9th grader in the Upper School means step up your game and refrain from middle school immaturity. I felt as though the teachers were already expecting a great deal from me despite just beginning high school. The 9th grade retreat helped me get to know my advisors, the go-to people when in doubt. The feeling of excitement, happiness, even comfort, all came back to me. Once we got back to our normal school schedule, every one of my teachers introduced themselves to the entire class and I felt much more right and relaxed.
Every new school year, I have the same feelings. It is just a matter of time to acclimatize oneself to the new environment."
"Freshman year is my favorite year of school. It all started with the freshman retreat. Before the freshman retreat, I was intimidated by the campus and the upperclassmen, but I just needed to relax and get comfortable with the high school experience. The freshman retreat did that for me, I felt more comfortable with my classmates after all the team-building exercises, and I felt more comfortable with the upperclassmen because they were in our groups and were very engaged with us. It was a great trip and a great way to relax nervous freshmen."
"Starting high school was always something that made me anxious. It seemed intimidating, starting the chapter of your life where things started to really matter for college. Even though I was given so much advice throughout the years on various aspects of high school, it wasn’t the same as finally starting it. On my first day, all I could think about were all the typical worries. I wasn’t really sure how it would turn out and it just got me nervous even thinking about all of the expectations and work I would have to meet and produce during the next four years. But after we went on the retreat with the seniors and I spent the day with my advisory, I felt more secure in the idea of high school.
"Being around the seniors and hearing them talk about their challenges and successes influenced my outlook. I began to understand that while there would be lots of expectations and hard work expected in high school, I shouldn’t be intimidated by it. My perspective changed as I realized that high school would be challenging, but rewarding. The retreat reminded me that all I had done in the past was preparation, and that while I am starting a new chapter of my life, I can handle whatever is thrown my way."
"Being a high school to freshman is supposed to be the worst year of your life. Going into my freshman year I knew a lot of my upperclassmen, especially the seniors, including my brother. Playing football has also allowed me to connect and bond with a lot of of people before I even got to Upper School. Knowing Randolph, I already knew it would be better than being a freshman somewhere else, but it is still scary to just go into a new environment. The help and advice from the senior leaders gave me confidence that high school will be alright. The next day of school I came in feeling a lot more confident than the first day. I may not have been one-hundred percent ready for my entire freshman year but I was definitely ready to begin my journey."
"I expected that high school would mean I would be much more independent or that I would be on my own. After my experience at Camp Maranatha, I learned that 'on my own' was not the correct phrase; 'more freedom' is more fitting. At the retreat, my advisory worked very well together and got along well despite a great amount of differences. Whether it be the 10-foot wall or the trust swing or the climbing wall, my advisory group was there for me and I was there for them; we encouraged and supported each other throughout the day. Even though we had a few failures, such as falling off (or rather knocking each other off) the paddleboards and the inflatables in the lake, we still helped each other out and practiced the valuable skills of teamwork and leadership. This also taught me that failure is acceptable—that there will always be another chance for success and that one cannot learn without mistakes. The seniors were always supportive of us and gave us good advice on how to tackle obstacles with the information they have from three years of high school. Not only did my homeroom have my back, but the seniors did too. After the retreat, in my first few days of classes, I realized that there is a lot more freedom in the upper school: a longer break, being able to have your cell phone with you, being allowed to work out during the school day, and many more freedoms. Before going on the retreat, I was nervous about failing at something and being alone with nobody there to help. After the retreat, I realized I am not on my own- I just have many more freedoms. I look forward to the next four years at the high school and possibly being able to change new the views of new freshmen about the upper school someday."
"I now see high school not as a scary place, but a new and exciting school where I will have many amazing experiences."
"I was really exited to have new teachers and the transition into a new campus, but I was really quite nervous. Even having a brother who is a rising senior, I was nervous about all the freshman stereotypes. I was nervous that some of the seniors were going to pick on me because I was a freshman. Going on the freshman retreat, I really did not know what to expect, I thought it was just a goofy way for the seniors to force the freshman to bond with each other through various team-building games, but by the end of the day my view had totally changed. By the end of the day, I had made many more friends that I could trust, not just in my grade, but in the senior class as well. By the end of the day, I realized that all the stereotypes I had heard were not true. The seniors were kind and helpful no matter the situation, and I can safely say that it is nice to be around them. Because of the retreat I feel that I have seniors that I can always go to if I ever need help. At first, the freshman retreat did not seem like it was a big deal, but in the end, it helped shape my views about high school."
"Over the summer I got more and more terrified of high school. What I was mainly afraid of was being alone. On the first day of classes I was full of confusion and a little overwhelmed. At Camp Maranatha, I got to bond with my new advisory. As we went throughout the day doing the fun activities that often required teamwork, I began to realize that all of the people around me were going through the exact same thing as I was. We were all a little scared after our first day, but this fact let me know that we are all in this together. I no longer felt alone. Having seniors to lead our groups and tell stories about their high school experiences comforted me as well. When the seniors all shared how they had messed up in the past and moved on from it, I felt inspired to pick myself up when I fall, which I inevitably will, and move on. In the weeks after the retreat, I now see high school not as a scary place, but a new and exciting school where I will have many amazing experiences."
"My thoughts of high school before and after the retreat really did not change at all. Prior to it, I thought (and knew, thanks to my sister and older friends) that high school would grant me more freedom, have more of a 'chill' vibe and a much more lively atmosphere. I was correct. Although I will say that I learned that Randolph has many good leaders and mentors; not only the Randolph staff, but the seniors. They did a great job of facilitating, which is probably comforting to many students to know that there are people to go to to discuss anything on their minds from a student-to-student perspective. Also, I thought going to high school meant kind of separating from your grade, which it is, but this retreat also showed that our class will always be bonding and strengthening our relationships."
Photos by Michael Treadwell and Patricia Kuhn