The summer before my freshman year at PHS, my older brother gave me a tour of the school. We began in the PAC, moved towards the cafeteria, and made our way to the science and language hallways. The building was almost completely empty, and our footsteps echoed up and down the staircases. I followed my brother in silence, trying to take as many mental notes as I could while my tour guide tried to plan the most efficient route for my schedule.
I’ll admit it—as a Princeton Charter School graduate, I was terrified. There were so many classrooms to peek into, endless rows of lockers to fumble with, and, of course, too many opportunities to get very lost. I tried to picture the ghost-town-like hallways filled with hundreds of students sprinting to their classes. Everything seemed too different, and way too big. And yet, I thought to myself, even with all this space, kids still have to eat on the floors. Put simply, PHS seemed way too immense for a Charter kid like me.
September rolled around, and my battle plan for survival in such unknown territory was to keep things small and familiar. Putting myself “out there” was a scary thought, and I definitely wasn’t ready to show off my freshman face to over a thousand people. I took a pass on fall sports—and would later pass on winter and spring ones, too. As hard as it tried, the club fair couldn’t get me to sign up for anything besides Asian American Club, which I only signed up for because of my friends’ involvement. And as I sat in my Writer’s Workshop class, listening to a teacher mention an upcoming interest meeting for the Tower, I told myself that the school newspaper just wasn’t for me. Sure, I liked to write, but something like the Tower would have too much publicity and exposure for me to handle.
Once I had survived freshman year, I figured the same “lay low” strategy would work again in my sophomore year. But in March, one of my teachers pulled me aside after class, holding up an essay I had just turned in. “Why don’t you write for the Tower?” she asked me. She couldn’t understand why I had always been so enthusiastic about her writing assignments, and yet hadn’t been contributing to something like the school newspaper, which was open to all students. Taking her words to heart, I signed up to write for the next available issue. And as I enter into my senior year, still writing for this newspaper, I’m beginning to ask myself: why didn’t I start earlier?
You’re never going to get your freshman year back. Actually, you’re never going to get any of your high school years back, so why put off that activity you’ve always been curious about until next year? For all of you who are nervous about the sheer size of PHS, don’t box yourself into a smaller and cozier setting. PHS has a lot of space, so fill it up! Your new high school isn’t a battleground where only the strongest—or most extroverted—can survive; it’s a mixture of opportunities for everyone to grow, to improve, and to try something new. Try, try again, and don’t let a year go to waste.