Advice for high school freshmen

August 30, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

Starting your freshman year in high school with hundreds of other students can feel lonely or intimidating and life after graduation can seem far off.

You're not the only one feeling that way, said local residents who were asked what advice they would give students starting high school.

Both Mae Keener, 79, and Curtis Tasker, 20, suggest students set aside their shyness and introduce themselves to other students.

"I wasn't alone, but I felt like the things that I was feeling, no one else would understand," said Tasker, of Hagers-town. "Everybody thinks they're alone, but they're not."


"You're more alike than you think you are," said Tasker, who grew up in Keyser, W.Va., and now talks to students about self-esteem as part of a leadership training program.

Students talking to one another helps build their self confidence, Tasker said.

Getting to know your fellow students also will help you focus on your studies because you'll be more comfortable with your surroundings by knowing people, Keener said.

Keener graduated from the now-defunct Lemasters High School in Franklin County, Pa., in 1943 after attending eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse for grades one through eight.

"I wish I had known more about intermingling with other students," said Keener, who lives near Mercersburg, Pa.

"When I went to high school, there were students from all over the territory," Keener said. "There were so many. It was so confusing."

After she got to know the other students, she discovered everyone basically was the same, she said.

Unpleasant situations, such as being teased, will happen, so students should learn how to deal with them, said Mary Eshleman, 47, of Mercersburg, Pa.

Eshleman's mother, Polly Miles of Clear Spring, said she didn't have the peer pressures today's teens have when she was going to Clear Spring High School in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Miles, 71, suggests teens have someone they feel confident in, who they can trust, to talk through these issues.

Teens need to learn how to deal with being unpopular or being "put down" because they aren't wearing the cool clothes or shoes, Eshleman said.

"Just be yourself," Eshleman said.

"But don't clam up," Miles said.

Eshleman, who graduated from Clear Spring High School in 1975, had her twin sister for support.

"You have to be able to talk your problems (through) with somebody. Let someone know what's going on," Eshleman said. That someone could be a teacher, counselor or relative, she said.

Besides social issues, some local residents suggested students plan for the future while in high school.

Thinking about what kind of job you want after school gives you the opportunity to take relevant classes in high school, said 2002 Washington County Technical High School graduate Corey McCarthy and 1992 Williamsport High School graduate Christine Millman.

Millman, 30, of Hagerstown, would have taken more child-care classes in high school to get further in college faster, she said.

McCarthy, 19, of Clear Spring, said several of his classmates didn't take math their senior year, but he did and it helped him retain those skills in college.

Noreen Harvey, 53, of Martinsburg, W.Va., wishes she had known more about her educational and career options.

Harvey, who graduated from Martinsburg High School in 1968, said she would have considered being an exchange student if that had been presented as an option.

"I would have really liked that," she said.

Harvey also wishes there had been a guidance counselor she could have consulted to plan ahead. If there was a counselor, she didn't know about it.

Back then, girls were presented with limited career options, such as nurse and teacher, said Harvey, a hairdresser.

"The day you're born, they stick a baby doll and dishes in front of you and try to teach you to be the perfect 'Leave it to Beaver' mother," Harvey said.

Harvey said she doesn't know what she would have done if she'd had more options.

Getting good grades and planning for your future by preparing for college will affect the type of job and quality of life you will have the rest of your life, said Hagerstown resident Sue Britton, 61, who retired three years ago as secretary at Northern Middle School.

George Shank, 51, of Hagerstown, advises students to continue on to college after graduation. Shank said he has a good job with United Parcel Service, but wishes he'd gone to college.

Aaron E. Keener, Mae's husband, didn't get to go to high school.

In 1937, the year he would have entered high school, Keener lived in Cearfoss and there was no school bus into Hagerstown, which was three miles away, so he didn't go to high school.

"They almost have to go to high school now to get a good job," said Keener, 80, who was a farmer before working at Fairchild and Mack Trucks.

Angela Davids, 38, of Hagerstown, wants teens to know "that any problem or temporary setback that seems huge in high school will seem small in the rest of your life and things you do later."

Try to remember that now, said Davids, a 1984 South Hagerstown High School graduate.

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