Editorials and Opinions

Feel for freshmen

By Denebola
Published: September 2007

By Ben Seifer

A boy, weighing in a slim 115 pounds and standing five foot four, inches down the corridors of Newton South for the first time. He walks with a slight limp and his 60-pound backpack weighs him down. People who he has never seen before fill the halls–some looking quite strange. They seem to be adults to him, not boys and girls, but men and women. He is late, tired and confused.

It seems like everyone else already knows everybody and everything except for him. He is dead lost, and the phenomenon of girls with breasts has left him dumbstruck. Needless to say, this kid is a mess.  Now add, throughout the day, unfamiliar upperclassmen shouldering him into a locker, jumping out from behind a door, or slamming closed the side doors that only open from the inside.

These are just some of the things I have seen in my years at Newton South and, as a freshman, have unfortunately experienced first hand. While they may be seemingly harmless slights, when combined with a freshman’s awkwardness, anxiety, and distress, they can feel pretty awful.

It is no secret as to why upperclassmen sometimes find it necessary to go out of their way to make freshmen miserable. Those upperclassmen were at one-point freshmen themselves, and the upperclassmen at the time did the same things to them. After two or three years, those freshmen feel it is their obligation to return the favor.

“It is a vicious cycle that has been going on in every high school in one form or another since the beginning of time,” a 1979 Newton South graduate said.

While taking your rightful turn in this cycle may seem like a right you have earned as an upperclassman, picking on a freshman could prove fatal. Think about road rage for example. 99 percent of the time, if you flip someone off while driving you will receive no response, or at most an angry horn blast.

But, for those of you that have seen the infamous drivers-ed movie, there is that one percent of the population for whom you may not be ready. If you make the mistake of angering them, they may very well pull over on the shoulder of the road and shoot you in the chest with a crossbow.

While I certainly hope that none of the freshmen carry lethal crossbows, the point is simple: Someone who is nervous and has had a bad day or is under pressure will not respond well to any aggravation. If only for the sake of self-preservation, you may want to lay off these guys because you never know if they are ready to blow.

Besides, with the uneasiness and embarrassment that is already associated with one’s first few days as a freshman, it is simply not necessary to go out of your way and make it worse. I am a realist; surely, freshmen will never be completely free of the shenanigans of upperclassmen.

We have all been there and know what it’s like to be in their shoes. I certainly do. It has been two years, twenty-five pounds, four inches and approximately three hundred and seventy four school days since my first terrifying day of high school. I’m grateful for that lapse of time.

So, next time you see a kid who hasn’t moved in the lunch line for the last half hour because everyone is cutting him off, let him go in front of you. Open locked doors. Give directions. Help them out of the bushes. It is neither difficult nor inconvenient to lend a hand, and sometimes it can make all the difference.

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