(L-R) Freshmen Holland Delley and Katherine Davis take on a scavenger hunt to learn the identities of their peer leaders. Photo: Stella Nelson

Transitioning from middle to high school is challenging enough. To make things even harder, Pace freshmen are maneuvering this transition during a pandemic. Even freshmen who are coming from the Pace Middle School are “picking up in person with going back to school, but it’s totally different from what they left in March,” according to Caitlin Terry, the dean for the class of 2024.

Just as the Pace eighth grade moving up ceremony had to be shifted to Zoom, the annual freshman retreat required significant modifications due to the pandemic. Instead of the usual trip to Camp Skyline, freshmen spent a Saturday morning on the Pace upper field with senior peer leaders. “It was a nice chance to meet more people in my grade,” said freshman Vivian Kohn, who is new to Pace.

There were nine stations for games, including soccer, trivia and duck duck goose. Everyone wore masks and stayed in small groups to maintain social distancing. “I’m so proud of the peer leaders for coming up with a morning of good team building activities,” said Mrs. Terry.

Throughout the year, freshmen meet with their peer leaders every D period on Thursdays. “We have done a scavenger hunt, and we have worked with our freshmen to form classroom guidelines,” said senior leader Hugh Douglas, whose peer leader partner is Lizzy Kaye. “Overall, the freshmen are very receptive to Peer Leadership and the activities we do,” he said.

Mrs. Terry is already getting to know the 124 ninth graders that she will be working with for the next four years. “I have already learned that they are thoughtful,” she said. “They are good communicators, they care about one another, they’re really excited to be back together as a group, and they’re excited to have their new peers join them.”

Mrs. Terry is also thankful to be able to meet most of her students in person even though there are restrictions. “My least favorite part of the job is telling people they have to stand apart because I know how badly we all want to get together,” she said.

Members of the Class of 2024 have already expressed great appreciation for their teachers. “The teachers made it easier to transition,” said freshman Henry Levenson. “They want you to succeed.” According to Mrs. Terry, their teachers feel the same affection towards them. “They are already huge fans of the Class of 2024,” she said.

A big part of the transition for freshmen is adjusting to the increased workload. “We have a lot more homework, but having free periods is nice,” said freshman Hannah Much. Free periods are typically used to work on homework or hang out with friends, and “they were, like, a lot stricter in middle school,” according to Much.

The 33 students who are new to Pace have an even harder transition, but they continue to work hard and adapt. Kohn enjoys the environment of Pace and says that her transition to Pace has been “great.” “The easiest part was getting to know my teachers,” said freshman Ross Bernath, who is also new to Pace. “The hardest part was finding my classes the first day.” Bernath looks forward to “getting to know more people and connecting with [his] teachers more.” Beyond making new friends, freshman Christian Johnson looks forward to playing high school sports, including football and lacrosse.

Despite the challenges, the Class of 2024 is persevering with adjusting to Upper School and COVID-19 guidelines. “Class of 2024 is crushing it, even given these tough pandemic times,” said Mrs. Terry. “There are so many layers of transitions happening here, and I’m just really impressed with how they’re handling all of it right now.” Mrs. Terry believes that since the freshmen were not in high school last year, they can be leaders for our new normal. “Instead of saying, it wasn’t like this last year, they have an opportunity to really just sort of shape what it is now.”

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