Stepping into the future

Stepping into the future

Walking into Prospect for the first time since freshmen orientation, Audrey Umali, a new freshman, was nervous. Unlike Lincoln Middle School, where she went from 6th through 8th grade, which only has two floors, Prospect has three floors, which made Umali anxious that she would get lost. In her first class, Biology, she spent her 80-minute block stressing.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god, how am I going to get to my next class in time?’ I was so worried,” Umali said.

Moving from middle to high school is a big change and can be nerve-wracking for most incoming freshmen. Finding your new classes with new kids and teachers in a bigger school is very anxiety-provoking. Not to mention finding a spot in the cafeteria and making new friends. Getting involved and making new friends to help them down the road is important. According to Cleveland University in Kansas, “In the book Connecting in College, a study among college students reveals that a close group of friends provided academic motivation and social support.” 

However, with time, the big adjustment becomes easier, according to Umali.

At Lincoln, Umali’s teacher warned her about the schedule differences since Lincoln has a straight 8-day schedule instead of a block schedule. However, her teachers also told her about all the beautiful opportunities she would encounter.

One of Umali’s favorite opportunities has been attending football games with her friends and experiencing the school spirit.

 “There is so much more school pride … all the sports teams are proud to play for Prospect and represent Prospect,” Umali said.

Umali also appreciates the dress-up days leading up to dances, such as homecoming. She remembers how much bigger the dances were than her 8th grade formal hosted in the small school gym.

“There were so many more people … and the preparation up to homecoming was so much fun like the dress up days and the powder toss … and then dressing up with my friends and getting ready was a lot of fun,” Umali said.

Another one of Umali’s favorite parts of high school were the homecoming and Folds of Honor assemblies because of the competitions, funny announcers and student participation.

When it comes to making friends, Umali is very grateful for the activities she’s involved in. She is involved in volleyball, track and choir. Choir has especially helped her venture out of her social circle and make new friends.

“I’ve made a lot of friends because there’s so few of us [in choir] that you’re able to get a lot closer to the people in it,” Umali said.

However, being this involved and a student-athlete with longer and more frequent practices while balancing school work has not always been easy for Umali, but she was able to adjust over time.

“At first, I was so overwhelmed with all the classes, but as I’m getting further in the school year, it’s been manageable. We pretty much have homework for every class, but it is not an amount that is impossible to do,” Umali said.

Umali has learned a lot throughout her first year here, but her main takeaway is confidence.

Walking in the hallways, Umali has always been intimidated by the upperclassmen and felt like she took up too much space, but she has learned that everyone is equal.

“Everyone [is] just a person; we’re all just going through our normal lives … you deserve to be here. You belong here. Just work hard,” Umali said.

Hannah Ellis is also a part of the freshmen class and was very nervous to join the student body.

“I thought it was going to be very stressful and overwhelming and chaotic,” Ellis said. “I did get lost a few times, but other than that, it was normal,” 

Ellis is a huge fan of fine arts and is involved in a band where she plays percussion. She’s on the drum line and does a lot of theater productions, like “Mama Mia.” Ellis also involved in the French club and speech team.

“I want to feel more involved and a part of Prospect’s students’ body … it’s just nice to feel [like] a part of Prospect,” said Ellis.

This is especially true with the drum line since marching band camp started in the summer, so she was able to make friends before school started.

She also made friends in the speech team because of all the mornings sitting around waiting to perform; they ended up talking to each other and creating a bond.

She has made amazing friends and memories in the theater. “Mamma Mia” was a core memory for Ellis because of the senior circle. In a senior circle, the non-seniors and seniors share their favorite memories from the production and thank each other. 

“Even though I wasn’t too close to the seniors throughout the year, that kind of showed that they know who I am and [that] they [are] friendly, and they like me and kind of connect the upper and lower classmen,” Ellis said.

During senior circle, Ellis even had a senior come up to her and her friends to tell them there was a lot of hope for the program and that it was in good hands because of the new freshmen additions.

Ellis has been able to branch out and make amazing friendships through all these activities. She has even made valuable connections with some of her teachers, such as fine arts coordinator Jeremy Morton and her band teacher, Chris Barnum.

“They’re so welcoming and nice and willing to help you if you need anything,” said Ellis.

In the future, Ellis hopes to be involved with even more things and potentially take up some leadership roles in the student body.

“I want to be someone others can look up to because the people I look up to are really important to me,” Ellis said. “And I’d like to help people know what it’s like to be new and help people through that.”

Unlike Umali and Ellis, freshmen Christopher Pawlak was excited to embark on his high school journey. After starting band camp during the summer, going into freshman year and doing the “distract swim and dive program”, Core Aquatics, Pawlak had a good start socially to highschool. He also has older siblings, one who graduated and one who is going into her senior year who were able to give him some good tips and tricks for getting around the highschool.

At South Middle School, Pawlak had two types of teachers when it came to the topic of highschool. One of his teachers had a really positive view and assured the class that they would be fine and have a great time in highschool. Another teacher told their classes a bunch of threats and made highschool seem scary. However, Pawlak has not found truth in the second teacher’s perspective. 

“They made it sound big and scary there, but truly, it’s not,” Pawlak said. 

Inspired by the advice he has heard over and over again, “join all the stuff you can,” Pawlak got very involved in school activities. He is involved in marching band, playing the Euphonium. He also is involved with long distance swimming and water polo, along with the robot rumble program, the computer science club and junior ROTC. 

Pawlak’s dad and brother have been involved in the ROTC program at Prospect and really enjoyed it, which inspired him to try it out along with the possible benefits of getting free college through a coast guard academy or a scholarship.

“Yeah, part of it [ROTC] is [family tradition] but it’s not like [a] forced family tradition, I would say. Do it if you think it’s fun, and I’m having fun,” Pawlak said.

However, being this involved can be tough. Trying to manage practices while maintaining time for family, self care and homework can be overwhelming, but Pawlak manages it pretty well thanks to his study halls. 

“If you can manage your time properly within the school itself, then you really won’t have to do much outside of school,” Pawlak said.

Some of Pawlak’s favorite memories have been during marching band season.

“Just sitting out there in the late evening and doing what you love coming together. To make something that is greater than yourself.” Pawlak said.

After spending some much time at band practices he has gotten really close to his fellow band members. He loves just messing around and genuinely connecting with them after long days of school and practice.

Through Pawlak’s next three years at Prospect, he is hoping to advance through all his current activities, learn new skills and take more leadership opportunities.

If he has learned anything through his freshman year, it is that every little detail matters. Pawlak experienced this lesson a time when he shined his shoes for ROTC. He shined his shoes one day and when the Navy came by for an inspection, he was one of the few kids who passed the inspection due to the simple act of him shining his shoes. Pawlak is grateful for everything he was able to experience and learn throughout his first year here.

“Pay attention in class and work hard and the content you learn won’t be as difficult as you think,” Umali said.

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