Ninth grade at Urban is full of awkward introductions, getting lost in the corridors of the Page Street campus, staying on top of homework, and trying to find a place in the both welcoming and at times intimidating Urban community. Though beginning this year virtually is not easy for anyone, the Class of 2024 is dealing with their own unique set of challenges.
Because COVID-19 has prevented schools from beginning in person this fall, the 9th graders have only had the opportunity to meet their classmates over Zoom, heightening the challenge of making new friends. “It’s been hard making connections,” said Viva Wertz ’24, “You kind of make friends in school by being like, ‘Oh, your handwriting looks so cool’ when you’re sitting next to them or something. Now, you can’t do that at all. You can’t talk to anyone directly.”
“People are so different over the phone and Zoom and on Instagram and stuff. You can’t really know someone through social media, you have to see how they act in person,” Selena Corpuz ‘24 said.“I know that everybody will be cool regardless, but there’s definitely going to be a sort of mask, because they get to choose what they post and how they look.”
One thing that has been allowing the 9th graders to feel more connected to one another is breakout rooms. “Breakout rooms are really helpful, even if it’s just for an assignment. It’s more direct contact” Wertz said.
Corpuz added that putting students in breakout rooms with the same people each time is helpful. “I know it’s not exactly an opportunity to meet different people, but you get closer to the same person.”
Alex De La Cruz ‘24 agreed that keeping the same breakout rooms is helpful. “I have some people who I share all my classes with. I feel like those people I know and I talk to,” he said.
When asked if they felt like they were part of the Urban community despite having distance learning, responses were mixed. Corpuz said, “1 million percent…everyone’s been super welcoming, I feel like I’ve been at Urban even though I’m not physically there.”
Wertz said, “I feel a part of my grade community. I don’t know if I feel a part of the Urban community fully yet. I think it’s just going to take time. I haven’t been through anything with the whole school and assemblies aren’t a very communal feeling.”
De La Cruz feels differently. “Not yet, I still feel like a middle schooler,” he said.
While the Class of 2024 is struggling to adapt, they ask that the rest of the student body is empathetic with the new members of their community. They also stressed the importance of the 9th graders being there for one another. “Just reach out to people,” De La Cruz said when asked what advice he would give to his fellow classmates. “It’s fine if you’re not comfortable in the first two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, even the first month.”
9th Grade Dean Ricco Siasoco’s advice for the Class of 2024 was “to ask for help, and to be kind to themselves.” This advice is particularly relevant coming from a member of the community who is also new this year and has had experience reaching out and connecting with others online.
Corpuz said, “Although you’re nervous, just take a chance, I would say 90% of the time the other person is going to be excited to meet someone new too.”