RBHS reflects upon first freshman class


On December 11, 2013, RBHS first freshman basketball team’s players, Reese Leitao and Logan Reuter (left to right) defend against Jefferson City’s High School freshman team as they take the lead to later win the game with a whopping score of 54-40 over the Jays on their home court.

Sarah Kinney

On December 11, 2013, RBHS first freshman basketball team’s players, Reese Leitao and Logan Reuter (left to right) defend against Jefferson City’s High School freshman team as they take the lead to later win the game with a whopping score of 54-40 over the Jays on their home court.
On December 11, 2013, RBHS first freshman basketball team’s players, Reese Leitao and Logan Reuter (left to right) defend against Jefferson City’s High School freshman team as they take the lead to later win the game with a whopping score of 54-40 over the Jays on their home court.  Photo by Bailey Washer
Hundreds of soon-to-be freshmen in Columbia were preparing to begin a feat never before attempted as August of 2013 approached. Up until the 2013-2014 school year, this band of students would have been much more at ease, bracing for just another year at their junior high school before moving on to the halls of RBHS.
But starting in the fall of 2013, RBHS, Hickman High School and new Battle High School ushered freshmen into its doors for the first time. Consequently, for this past school year, these three public high schools have housed not only seniors, juniors and sophomores but also freshmen in their hallways.
Not only were the 2013-2014 freshmen getting ready to enter a  new school for the first time, but they were also preparing to be the very first of their kind ever welcomed at Columbia public high schools in the first place.
And for most, this was a major concern: the welcome they would receive. Freshman Kathleen John said she was worried about how older students would treat her and her class being the first freshman class to occupy RBHS. She had visions of walking up at football games and getting kicked out of the student section, or worse, being ignored altogether. Even though John has an older brother, junior Julian John, she feared her older peers might ostracize her.
“I was worried that the upperclassmen wouldn’t talk to me,”  Kathleen John said, “that we’d be ignored and treated like we were lesser of them. I thought that there would be an unwritten rule that you had to stick with your grade.”
Her fears were not born out of naught. According to hazingprevention.org, 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year in the United States. Hazing, or purposeful humiliation of a group of people as a form of initiation, is an act often performed on freshman students.
Hazing may be a strong word, but many upperclassmen had an overall general feeling of reluctance toward the integration of an additional grade to the already well-oiled machine of RBHS. Junior Ricky White was not looking forward to the changes the freshmen would bring with them.
“I wasn’t very happy about it,” White said. “It was introducing too many new kids—and even teachers—from the junior highs who weren’t used to the Rock Bridge motto of freedom with responsibility. Too many things had to change.”
White said when he first came to RBHS as a sophomore, he didn’t worry about the upperclassmen treating him poorly because his class was not disrupting any cycle or causing any changes. He thinks it was easier when RBHS was just sophomores, juniors and seniors; the expectations were what they had always been, and everybody understood the RBHS lifestyle.
However, for John, this past year has provided her the perfect opportunity to embrace the laid back RBHS way of life. Her fears of being mistreated by upperclassmen flew out the window.
[quote cite=”Kathleen John, freshman”]I’ve found that Rock Bridge is a place of freedom. We can do what we want and mind our own business.[/quote] “I’ve found that Rock Bridge is a place of freedom,” John said. “We can do what we want and mind our own business. I feel like at this point, most of the school thinks freshmen just crowd the hallways and can be annoying, which isn’t that bad. But most of the time, if you talk to [an upperclassman], they just want to get to know you better.”
John isn’t the only freshman who has reached out to upperclassmen in hopes of forming strong bonds. Freshman Brian Baker has spent the past year as a representative in student council for his class and getting to know older students here. He thinks everybody in the 2013-2014 student council collective worked  together to integrate freshmen not only into the process of each meeting but the RBHS student body as a whole.
“As freshmen we’re given even more opportunities to make our opinions heard,” Baker said. “We get into smaller committees and discuss details of all events. We’re very much a part of the decision making process.”
For RBHS senior student council member Ali Kreklow, actively involving freshmen into those decisions has only made interacting with that new class more enjoyable. She likes making sure their voices are well received and bringing them into the conversation. She said the class of 2017 are going to make for an incredible class throughout, having had student council experience from the beginning.
“At first, we really focused on getting [the freshmen] involved and teaching them the ropes,” Krewlow said, “so that by the time my senior class leaves, they’ll already be leaders. They bring a great younger vibe and enthusiasm.”
Along with student council, there are plenty of other opportunities where students of all grades collaborate in small settings. Classes, such as AP Human Geography, are open to freshmen through seniors. AP Human Geography teacher Katherine Sasser came away with the same perspective of freshmen mingling with older students as Kreklow did from student council.
“Freshmen bring a very cool energy to the class,” Sasser said. “It may have taken more time for the class to really bond in a communal way since there was a large range of ages, but now it’s a really cool experience with freshman and seniors all interacting. [The freshmen] keep up very well and are able to come up with a product that’s just as good—if not better—than the upperclassmen.”
Delaney Catlettstout, a senior in Sasser’s AP Human Geography class, said being in a course with freshman has definitely changed the feel of the classroom; however, she doesn’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
“It’s an interesting environment,” Catlettstout said, “because the underclassmen do seem to need a little more structure. Sometimes it’s more relaxed. Other times it’s more strict. However, I think we’ve all been able to create strong bonds.”
John’s apparel merchandising class falls into the same category as AP Human Geography, since it allows RBHS students of every grade. She said that she had a positive experience working in a class with other students as old as seniors, and that it’s given her a chance to branch out into the school.
“Everybody was really open,” John said. “I didn’t even feel intimidated. Since it was an elective, we all wanted to be there, so it was easier to bond.”
Sasser said the 2013-2014 freshmen seem to have proved themselves to be a group of individuals who are just as much a part of the RBHS student body as the retiring seniors. They take advanced courses, participate in student council and hold their own in the hallways. As May draws to an end and August looms near, John said one thing she’s excited about for next year is challenging herself even more in the classroom.
“I’m looking forward to an even wider range of classes to choose from,” John said. “Being a sophomore will be really nice in that regard.”
John looks forward to her future at RBHS, especially getting new freedoms such as driving and parking in the lot. New classes and club opportunities will come with age as well, which John plans to take advantage of.
By Sarah Kinney
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