On the first day of high school I was nervous, so I entered nervously. I tripped a little on the steps, I dropped my pencil case a few times, I worried that people were noticing the fact that I was a klutz. I drifted from class to class, staring at the unfamiliar faces around me, feeling a little jolt of relief whenever a recognizable face came across my path. I thought not of how I would change because of Princeton High School, but how people at Princeton High School would change me.
My focus was on the community of which I had suddenly become a part. However, a community is not just its people, but its setting, its qualities, the values that it holds. Just as leaves do not make the tree, the people do not automatically make the community; the student body is just one component of PHS, albeit an important one. In my freshman anxiety, I could not see that. I stressed. I stressed socially. How did I choose where to sit at lunch, and did it mean anything? Should I invite that nice girl from biology to hang out after school one day? What should I do if an upperclassman talked to me? I was consumed by what seemed to be the important things in life.
I settled into a group of friends and met some truly lovely people. As the year progressed, my worries faded. But new things came along with my first couple of years in high school: passions. As the anxious first-day, got-lost-going-to-my-locker freshman, I had dismissed schoolwork and extracurricular commitments as less important to my growth. But looking back, many of the moments I now appreciate most occurred in class, learning about something fascinating; in a club or program, performing something meaningful; or at a school event, feeling at one with my peers and supporting the community of Princeton High School. I found new talents and new interests in things I had never before considered.
Over time, I realized how these things had affected me. Without knowing it, I had adapted to the school and found a home there. I curled up between bookshelves in the library to do my homework. On sunny days, my friends and I squeezed onto a tiny table on the front lawn to enjoy lunch together. For performances and concerts, I sat, feet tucked up, in a seat in the PAC, admiring the talent our school put up on that stage. I was even able to find my own place up there in Teen PEP workshops junior year.
In freshman year, I could never have predicted how I would have changed. The people I have encountered have impacted me in indelible ways and have helped me grow as a person, but this school has too. Learning, and committing myself to learning, is something that has become an integral part of my life because of the opportunities I have been given here. My advice to newcomers is to take chances. Talk to that person who seems nice, knowledgeable, or interesting. If you like something, try an extracurricular that exercises and expands that talent. Pursue what you enjoy, and you will be rewarded; your passions will come to life. You have a couple years ahead of you here, for better or for worse, so it’s only logical to find ways to make yourself a part of Princeton High School. Value every aspect of your new community at PHS—the people, the place, the atmosphere—and you will leave changed for the better.