First and Last: The third installment examines the new friendships made by freshmen and the deepening ones made by seniors, as well as schoolwork rigors and applying to college
The cookie cutters are out of the cupboards, the Christmas sweaters out of the closets and high-schoolers push through finals week with winter break on their minds. However, finals week also marks the end of a full semester.
By now, students march through the hallways, in sync with their schedules and in tune with the social dynamics of high school. The freshmen dread the long hike up to the third floor for math class, and the seniors know the intensity of Kristofor Sauer’s literature class. With half a school year behind them, students have discovered which preconceptions about their year hold true and which ones have taken unexpected turns.
Freshman Lars Askegaard is new to Minnehaha this year, and before coming, he knew the school only through the lives of his older sister Lily Askegaard and his cousin Bjorn Anderson, who are both seniors at Minnehaha this year. Like many of his freshmen classmates, Lars had an incomplete image of high school before he walked in on the first day. Since then, he’s learned the hallways through his own eyes.
Of the many aspects of Minnehaha that he’s discovered in the past semester, Lars was most pleasantly surprised by the social dynamics of the student body. After having hundreds of classmates within his own grade at Central Middle School in Eden Prairie, Lars has learned, happily, how personal Minnehaha is.
“I didn’t think the school was this small. I had know idea that I would see people in the halls and know who everyone was.”
Not only has Lars learned that he can know people really well at Minnehaha, but he’s discovered that friendships can extend further than his age group.
“I expected [friendships to be restricted within] the grades. It’s been nothing like that,” Lars said.“I’ve noticed in the lunchroom, that it’s not just ‘here’s the freshman table’ and ‘here’s the sophomore table.’ It’s pretty intermingled.”
Lars explained that having friendships with teammates of all ages has enhanced his participation soccer and Nordic skiing, and that this social aspect of Minnehaha has ultimately affected his excitement towards school. Contributing to this excitement is a powerful sense of energy that Lars has noticed carry throughout the semester.
“I’ve noticed that the energy in the school has stayed pretty high. The attitudes have stayed the same from day one, when we ran through the tunnel of interns, to now,” Askegaard explained. “[The student body] is still excited. I like that it hasn’t dulled down, it’s not like the year’s dragging on. People don’t walk into physics like ‘Oh no, we’re learning about this today.’ With all the exciting things going on, people walk into physics like ‘Oh, this is going to be really cool today.’ It’s cool that students are still energetic, that they’re not just leaning back in their chairs with their hoods up.”
After a semester of holding on to this energy, Lars has discovered that Minnehaha offers a variety of opportunities that keeps him excited. He’s also found the value in being at a school where he can speak openly about his faith, and he has learned that time management and work organization are essential for a busy high school student.
In terms of next semester, Lars has a challenge for himself.
“Instead of when the bell rings [after sixth hour], walking down the flight of stairs and joining the big circle of friends that I always hang out with, I have a goal to make relationships with people I’m not usually with,” Lars explained.
Though his growth in character isn’t apparent to him yet, Lars is learning the simple lessons and discovering his primary appreciations of high school now. These factors will continue to help mature him through his walk through high school hallways.
Seniors, who have walked through these hallways for three and half years, have encountered moments of both sentimental realization and excitement towards their future. Life beyond Minnehaha is starting to become more real. Seniors will hand in their last packet of high school finals today. By February, all college applications will have been submitted, in fact, a few of the seniors have already committed to universities.
After going through a full semester of ‘lasts,’ seniors discover if the expectations they set at the beginning of the year are attainable, or even important.
At the beginning of the school year, senior Bailey McKenzie stated, “There’s a good chunk of people in my grade who I’d really like to get to know better and here’s my last chance. I think it’ll be important to keep your strong friends strong but also have the mindset of staying together like one grade. We’re all going to have different lives in a year, let’s try to be together as friends.”
Since then, Bailey has found the chance to deepen and even begin friendships with classmates outside of her core friends. She is thankful for the unexpected bonding she has done with her classmates in French class, a group of students she’s been with since freshman year.
“Everyone in my class has always been best friends with each other which has been, in the past, weird for me because I wasn’t as close with all of them. But this year, I’ve gotten a lot closer to my French class as a whole. It feels like a ‘last year, last chance’ kind of thing.”
Bailey approached senior year with this ‘last chance’ mentality and though she has been hit with “we’re all going to be in different places next year” realizations, she has not been as sentimental as she expected to be.
“I thought that all the little ‘lasts’ would matter more than they really do.”
These ‘lasts’ may hit harder as the year progresses and as graduation draws closer.
Bailey applied to University of St. Thomas, Colorado State University and University of Colorado Boulder earlier this fall. As of February first she will have applied to Arizona State University, University of Minnesota, and Baylor University. However, even after sending in all applications, seniors cannot lean back in relief.
“Then [we start] the senior term paper,” Bailey explained. “We’ll have to have finished our book by the end of winter break. I’ve heard that once senior term paper is done, most of the pressure and stress goes away.”
Until this time, Bailey hopes to approach the last semester of her high school with high energy and good friendships.
“I really don’t want to fall into the ‘we’re done’ mindset before we are actually done,” Bailey said. “I’m hoping to continue to grow academically as well as keep up my motivation to always better myself. If I give up before it’s over, I feel like I’ll miss out on a lot. I don’t want to end the year [not trying] just because I know where I’m going to college. If anything, I want to push myself harder to be more prepared for everything coming this next year.”
Both Bailey and Lars had birthdays recently; Bailey turned 18 years old at the end of November and Lars turned 15 at the beginning of December. So as the semester concludes with snowfall and sledding, Bailey and Lars also launch into the next year of their lives, hoping to challenge themselves.