A nice, precious little preface to this story: This idea was inspired by CBC Radio’s podcast How to Age Gracefully, where people from the ages 7-93 give their advice to the youth. I also wanted to make this very personal and straightforward because I feel like… I don’t know. It feels better.
Prairie High School encountered many difficulties and triumphs this year. I figured the best way to capture the year was by asking the entire student body through a survey about their personal opinions.
Question: What is the biggest difference between the grade you’re in now, and the grade below you?
Sophomore, Abby Long: The independence factor… Being able to breathe and be an independent student. They give a lot more freedom here.
Sophomore, Mari Dawley: You don’t get babysat Sophomore year. You either get your stuff done, or fail. The choice is yours.
Junior, Nicole Adams: The schoolwork doesn’t get harder, there’s just a lot more…and maybe some of it is a little harder.
Junior, Korey Frederick: The responsibility put upon me as a leader in the classroom and in sports. When being older and more experienced than the underclassmen, they look up to me and depend on me to do my job/or for help. Another difference was the ability to leave campus during the school day. That led to a lot of fun occasions and poor decisions. But overall it was a fun and memorable option that I won’t ever forget.
Senior, Sean Hamilton: Junior year is more difficult as far as classwork and senior year is more difficult mentally. Senior year you have a lot of, “Last Lasts,” and just a lot of random stuff you need to do to graduate. Additionally, as a senior you get senioritis.
Senior, Megan Hansen: Honestly, there’s a lot more weight on your shoulders. It’s the last year and you’re desperate to pass and finally, after 13 years, you can say “I did it.”
Question: What is your advice to the people in the grade below you?
Sophomore, Cassie Pasker: Don’t let the school size stress you out, you get the hallways down pretty fast and everyone is always understanding when you get lost. Also never, EVER stop in the middle of the halls.
Sophomore, Jackie Hernandez: Be yourself and don’t let any of the rumors or drama get to you. Also, don’t skip classes because otherwise you could fall behind and it would be hard to catch up.
Junior, Paige Wolf: Never pack up 3-5 minutes early before class gets out, that is time wasted that you could be working on projects.
Junior, Katrina Wieneke: Believe in yourself. Plan your future. Explore careers. Look at colleges. Have fun. It’s almost over.
Senior, Natalie Gregerson: Try not to limit yourself based on preconceived notions of who you are and who you can be. If you want to try something, look into it. Let yourself explore things that might become your passion. And maybe they don’t, but determining that is really important.
Senior, Gib Lewis: Take a deep breath and chill out. It’s only as stressful as you choose to make it. Just make that phone call you’ve been putting off, turn in that assignment even if it’s really bad, and take a nap. You’ll make it through.
If you need more tips, here are my top six biggest pieces of advice to underclassmen.
Be healthy: When I say this I mean drink water, eat healthily, and take weight lifting or fitness training. Your metabolism may be great now, but that won’t always be the case. Forming healthy habits at this stage in your life will set you up for prosperity when you’re older. Also, your lack of proper health may actually be what’s causing you half of your problems.
Don’t procrastinate: This topic along with the next one are the two most common pieces of advice, but they are seriously true. I didn’t listen to these two things at all my Sophomore year and it got me a 2.5 GPA in my first semester. You know procrastinating is useless, but I can’t say it’s always possible to not procrastinate. Because of this, I’ll let you get away with a 5% procrastination rate for the entirety of next school year!
Ask questions: Opposed to what you’ve heard from teachers your whole life, I’d be lying if I told you that there is never a stupid question. Nonetheless, it’s immensely important to ask the question. (Bonus tip: It is way more impactful and beneficial to understand why you are supposed to do something rather than knowing that you have to do it. For example, in Chemistry it is easier to remember what a compound’s geometry is when you understand why it’s like that and what it means. Not only does this make it easier to remember, but it makes the content more interesting and useful.)
Join a club: Even if you don’t want to impress a college with how involved you are in the community, clubs are still cool. It’s a fun way to pass the time and meet new people. There is most likely at least one club or activity for everyone. If you can’t find one that sparks interest and joy, maybe you can make your own.
Take AP and/or Kirkwood Classes: This one is controversial. Many people will tell you not to take AP or Kirkwood, and I used to be one of them. So here’s the real scoop on both… If you think that you breeze through a certain course, sign up for that courses’ “advanced” section. Don’t freak out; I’m not telling you to stay in it even if you feel like crying every time you enter the classroom. Sign up for it, and stay until the second to last day before you can drop classes, and make your decision then. Make sure you ask the teacher what you’ll be learning, what the difference is between the advanced course and the regular section, and how heavy the workload is. If you feel like you can handle it, continue and make sure to be on top of your work. If you don’t feel like it’s the best decision, that’s okay too.
Finally, and the most significant thing you can take away from this is: Be vulnerable. What this means is being open with the people around you and having honest, truthful conversations. Whether it’s with a friend who upsets you or a teacher who gives you a bad grade, always have a mature and respectful conversation with them. Two of the things that make me happiest in school are creating pieces of work I am proud of, and connecting with the teachers on personal levels. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is not communicating with their teacher when they’re personally struggling or when they don’t understand why their grade is not what they feel it should be. It is absolutely okay to tell a teacher that you are going through emotional or physical difficulties. Most teachers at this school appreciate your communication and will work with you to accommodate your needs. If drama, heartbreak, mental illness, or loss are getting in the way of your academic or social performance, talk to your teacher.
In conclusion, this year has been wild. I am extremely proud of each and every P-Hawk, and I sincerely hope that we shall be even stronger next year.