High School Through the Years for the Class of 2021
By Leila An Laserna '24
With graduation day approaching, the Class of 2021 has less than a month of school left. Before the seniors depart from ICA, I asked four senior Spartans to recollect their memories, thoughts, and experiences for their opinions on how their four years of high school went for them, as well as bonus senior-related content! Seniors Mariah Esquivel, Janelle Chua, Karina Cabrera, and Isabella Rivera-Gonzalez contributed their wisdom and advice for generations of Spartans to come.
Starting off with freshman year, Karina shared how she struggled a lot with transitioning into ICA. She said her shyness did not benefit her experience, especially when dealing with her toughest classes. Karina said, “Going into high school was such a huge change for me and I did struggle a lot with certain classes. I would definitely like to go back and reach out to receive help from certain teachers because this is something I didn't really do my freshman year since I was so shy. I would change this and push myself to be less shy.” Taking in from what Karina regrets, it is advised for freshmen (or any student in general) to always ask for help when needed. This way it will become easier in the long run before those difficult classes become serious concerns.
Janelle is similar in that way with Karina, as she also wishes that she would have made different decisions. She simply said, “I wish I could go back to my Frosh year and take my classes and grades more seriously.” From what Karina and Janelle said about their experiences, we can conclude that freshman year is one of the roughest stages of high school due to the struggles of grades and getting used to the new school environment.
Creating friendships is also another immense component to high school, as these seniors mentioned how their community/peers around them helped shape strong memories with one another. These learning experiences helped them understand what friendship is truly all about. For Karina, she was nervous at first when making new friends at ICA because of her assumption that her classmates would be unfriendly. However, she made the discovery that her assumption was entirely wrong! “When I came to ICA, I wasn't worried about making friends because all of my previous friends from middle school were also attending ICA. However, I did want to meet new people. I was afraid because I thought people would be mean, but in reality everyone was so nice. Those friendships that I made from freshman year are still alive to this day, so it's good to know that your friends stick with you,” Karina mentioned. Learning from Karina’s experience, friendships made in freshman year could be the ones that stay by your side the most, especially when they start off with an interesting introduction.
The same conclusion is supported by Isabella, as she pointed out that she met her two best friends from freshman year. However, she also included how different people come and go throughout the years, which is completely normal and common: “I learned that [friendships are] not all going to be as permanent as you'd like, but not in a bad way. Luckily, I didn't have drama or any falling outs with anyone at ICA. But, I've had a lot of different friend groups over the years and a lot of the people in those groups went from close friends to just someone you'd say ‘hi’ to in the hall and nothing more. However, I am still best friends with both of the people I met freshman year. They were my both consistent friends all four years.” As Isabella states, not all friendships made during high school are expected to last. Luckily, there are some fortunate relationships that do remain in the end.
Mariah also said it is normal for friendships not to last forever and that we can learn from past friendships. “You will go through so many different friendships, and not all of them are going to be best friend material, but they will all be learning experiences. You have to learn how to let some friends go because people change and that's okay… Also communicate with your friends, even about the stupid things that bother you. If you don’t tell them, it will build up and ruin your friendship in the end. I can't express that enough!”
Moving on from freshman year to sophomore year, these senior representatives said that hardships, such as those around friendships and grades, are common to resume and aren’t likely to disappear in the next few years. Unfortunately, for others, these struggles can get worse based on different perspectives. For example, unlike Janelle and Karina, Isabella and Mariah disliked their sophomore year more than freshman year. “Sophomore year was the worst for me because I was going through a lot of personal things and friendship issues,” Mariah said. As for Isabella she said, “I think if I had the option, I would immediately go back to sophomore year. That year, I tried managing school, theatre, student council, and band. It was really rough. I was stretching myself out too thin which not only affected me, but it also affected my friends and peers around me when I couldn't devote enough of my time to each extracurricular.”
Based on these responses, it seems that 9th and 10th grade are rated to be the worst years out of the four grade levels. The reputation of junior year is well-known to be the most tiresome grade level, due to the workload. In spite of this, these representatives point out that junior year was their favorite! Mariah mentioned she became “more social,” Janelle noted she “found the meaning of true friendship,” Isabella stated that she did the best academically (out of every other year of high school), and Karina said “it felt like I was really getting everything together.” Moreover, Janelle described junior year as “the most memorable.”
Despite the fact that 11th grade was their highlight of high school at ICA, sadly all things must come to an end. As everyone well knows, students across the globe had to experience high school through new conditions due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors in high school and college have especially been affected by the pandemic due to the opportunities that they had to skip. These events that had to be canceled or held online include: College Decision Day, retreats, prom, Junior-Senior Farewell, and more. These seniors also said that they missed rallies, March Madness, Spirit Week, and Fun Fridays.
Although they had to unfortunately miss out on these events, these Spartans made the most of their senior year by “focusing on all of the good instead of the bad,” as Isabella shared. Mariah said similarly that she “tried to have a positive outlook each morning.” Others approached this unavoidable situation by keeping themselves productive, such as Janelle, who directed her time towards “Student Council, planning, and organizing certain events.” Likewise, Karina as she puts it, “survived” senior year by “having fun events (through Zoom of course) [which were] just a good way to enjoy the time we had and cure our boredom.” Overall, these responses imply that even with these inescapable circumstances, Spartans always find a way to persevere.
Not only did they stand firm through the pandemic, but also within the academic requirements that senior year requires. Preparations for all college-related tasks are in full swing during 12th grade, along with the regular classes, that are vital for eligibility to graduate. So, these seniors have a full plate of duties to fulfill to end high school strong. “Writing multiple supplemental essays, college applications, scholarships, and dealing with financial aid, are all the worst,” Mariah noted. All of these tasks that Isabella listed, are examples of what seniors manage. Thankfully, seniors at ICA don’t have to worry about handling everything by themselves. Mariah said, “Shout out to Ms. Benson and Ms. Genger for making the process so much easier; [I] literally couldn't have done it without them.”
These two counselors are examples of how role models at ICA changed the high-school experience for students. All of the other seniors can also agree that the teachers that they’ve worked with, and made friendships with at ICA, will not be forgotten for the rest of their journey and are thankful for the help they received. “I will definitely miss all of my teachers… They have all been the best and they are so supportive and great. I am sad that I will leave them. I will miss them all so much,” Karina commented.
Isabella felt the same way and said, “If I could name the entire administration I would. They're all the best, ever. But I especially have to name Mr. D, Mr. Callaghan, and Ms. Mills. They complete my life. Mr. D has taught me so much about literature and also how to be more empathetic in life towards others. Mr. Callaghan was my English teacher as well as my Drama director. His ability to inspire people so easily and help others through rough patches in life is something I admire very much about him. Ms. Mills is probably one of the best teachers ever at ICA. She really pushes you to be the best person you can be and always puts a smile on your face.”
Mariah goes along and said, “Mr. Wetzel is the only teacher I've had for three consecutive years and I feel like I can be myself in his class. I'm only outspoken in his class because he unknowingly created a space where I feel comfortable doing so. His lessons are entertaining because of the memes he includes in his powerpoints, the jokes we type in the chat, and he's just funny in general. I learn a new word every day and sometimes we teach him new slang too. I feel like my writing has progressively gotten better and he doesn't make me feel like my writing is bad when it is sometimes, so thank you.”
These seniors sincerely thank the teachers who make ICA as great as it is and are thankful for the memories and lessons that they’ve learned.
In conclusion, the Spartans at ICA have been able to grow from their past, as they noticed how much they’ve changed since then. Learning from their mistakes made a positive impact on who they’ve become as young women and are proud of themselves to have progressed so far. Starting from freshman year, these representatives went through growth in individual ways, which goes to show that everyone during senior year can take away something new they’ve learned throughout their four years. Isabella learned that change is inevitable, Janelle realized that she should stop worrying about impressing others or caring too much about others' opinions, Karina noticed that she used to be incredibly shy and isn't so much anymore, and Mariah gained confidence plus less judgment towards others. Their observations prove how much students can learn from high school, especially at the marvelous school of ICA.
Isabella said, “I will remember the community that ICA has. It's a really great environment when you push yourself out there and actually try to become involved. I will really miss ICA with all of my heart. It's hard to believe I'm graduating because ICA will forever be my home.”