As a second semester senior, I think it’s safe to say that I have had my fair share of the overall high school experience. I’ve been through all the school events, all the classrooms, and all the phases of the lunchroom. I’ve done my time in Lake Forest High School’s blue and gold halls. And now here I am, looking back at my time in Lake Forest as I ready myself for my departure into the real world. However, there’s always that one thing that knocks on the back of my mind, the thing that makes me almost wish that I could do it all over again: my friends.
When we first walked through the doors of the ever-so-intimidating Lake Forest High School as little-itty-bitty freshmen, our friends were already pre-determined. Our transition from middle school was remotely seamless and we found ourselves texting and conversing in the looming hallways with the same old friends. We huddled in groups, gossiped with select individuals, and hung out exclusively with the same six or seven people. And it was hard to shake. Transitioning into something so new had left us vulnerable and seeking something familiar; so we turned to our friends. Often we found that it was hard to make new friends, especially at Lake Forest High School.
“It’s really hard sitting down in a class with students you don’t know. It takes a lot of courage to speak up and be the first one to introduce yourself because everyone is afraid of being shut down.” – Female, senior
“It’s really important to talk to people in your classes, whether you know them or not. That’s how I became friends with one of my closest friends today. You have to branch out and talk to people you don’t know, otherwise you’ll never meet people.” – Male, senior
It’s no mystery that our high school is tagged with a stereotype–a high school brimming with blonde girls and button down boys. It’s a standard that sticks and sadly it is something we have been unable to shake. Middle school boys and girls hear the rumors and the remarks and sculpt the idea that Lake Forest High School is a scary place. However, the truth is stretched and freshman quickly realize that the rumors they were told as incoming freshman were merely exaggerations.
“Yes, I absolutely think that there are cliques in this high school. It’s inevitable in any school. Everyone has a preference and the best thing we can do is push past that.” – Female, senior
“There are cliques in this school without a doubt. I know seniors, but I don’t really pay attention to the underclassmen. I’ve never thought to be friends with the other kids, that’s the sad part.” – Senior, male
When I entered the high school on my very first day as a new student, I quickly learned that everyone had their place in the high school’s social pyramid. Girls had their groups and boys had theirs–that was it. Friendships were already set in stone and it was hard to make friends. I remember sitting in my first period class completely distracted by my thoughts: who would I turn to if I had a question and who on earth would I look to if we were assigned a partner task? I was so captivated by my paranoia that I barely moved in my chair. That’s the worst part about being an underclassman: you think that there are barriers between yourself and others just because you are in different friend groups, but in actuality the only barriers that stand between us are the ones we create in our minds.
“There’s always going to be a group labelled ‘the most popular’ and we create these labels and they end up separating us on a base made simply out of observation. There are times when I see that people feel like they have less value than others and that’s the worst thing to see.” – Female, senior
“There are definitely people that don’t feel adequate enough to branch out and speak up. It’s a combination of both themselves and others that create the stigma that people are above and below them.” – Senior, male
Senior year is a year of reflection. We take the time as upperclassman to look back on our past four years at our beloved high school, a place where we have made friends that will last forever. I realize now how foolish it was of me to think that cliques divided our class. The girls and boys I sat next to but never talked to could have been some of my closest friends. I let my worries get the best of me and I ended up holding myself back.
Senior year has rolled around and I no longer let the barriers tell me where I do and don’t belong. I know everyone, first and last name, and whether they know me or not isn’t my concern. My year isn’t over, I still have time to talk to the girl I sat next to in study hall freshman year, or the boy who’s locker was next to mine when we were juniors. So, whether you’re a senior or a freshman, it’s never too late to reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t. We often find that we become friends with the most unpredictable people, and those are the most memorable friendships.
I, along with most, know that Lake Forest High School is known for its physical beauty and the statistical value of test scores and AP classes, but what we often don’t see is the beauty within Lake Forest High School’s students and their relationships with each other. Don’t let the rumors get to you, after all, we’re all in this together. And we’re not freshmen anymore.