RISE Grade 9 Students Reflect on the Importance of OTC Connections

Grade 9 SuccessStudent Voice and Success

The high school transition can be challenging for freshmen. Learning a new building, navigating a new school culture, making friends, and adjusting to high school academics can be daunting. We recently connected with Grade 9 students at Brien McMahon High School and Hartford Public High School to head about their experiences during their first year of high school. Students shared the importance of connections with educators and on-track coordinators; they also reflected on distance learning and offered advice for incoming freshmen. 

Getting Started, Building Connections

Entering freshman year, Brien McMahon Grade 9 student Jared was pretty excited about being a high school student. Heading into his first day, he thought McMahon hallways would be like what he’d seen in television shows and movies. 

“I thought it would be how it is in the movies, although I know movies aren’t realistic,” said Jared. “I knew I was going to have a lot of fun, I have a bunch of upperclassmen friends and four older siblings that talked to me about their high school experience. I just wasn’t sure how I would do with the work.”

Jared credits his On-Track Coordinator (OTC), Sharina Jimenez, for ensuring he stayed on-track and adds she helped him understand the importance of advocating for himself in the classroom.

“She’s been a huge support, helping me to grow and improve,” said Jared. “One problem I had is that I never speak up and ask for help when it’s needed, but she helped me a lot in that area.”

Chrislyan, a rising sophomore at Hartford Public High School (HPHS), says her OTC, Jamie Meurer, taught her to believe in herself. 

“She always checked up on me and made sure my grades were good and she would even pop up in my classes to make sure I was there,” Chrislyan said. “If I was sad, she always told me I can do it, and I can do whatever I set my mind to. It made me feel good, she was somebody I could always call if I was down.”

Navigating Distance Learning

Chrislyan said having Ms. Meurer to talk to was beneficial, especially during COVID-19 remote learning during the final three months of the school year. Distance learning also affected the Grade 9 year of students like Angel, who also attends HPHS and had Ms. Meurer as his OTC. He said being away from the school building was stressful.  

“I’m a student that really likes to connect with teachers and talk to them and ask tons of questions,” said Angel. “Because of COVID-19 I don’t have as many opportunities to talk to teachers”

Angels says navigating the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the tougher challenges he faced in Grade 9. He admitted he struggled with time management, and distance learning just made it harder to stay focused and engaged. 

“I would get distracted with video games or friends and my grades started to go down, but my OTC told me I needed to finish strong,” said Angel. 

Grade 9 Words of Wisdom

Jared said this school year taught him the benefit of balance. He wanted to get involved with everything McMahon had to offer, but admitted he didn’t do the best job managing his time and prioritizing his school work.

“I wanted to get involved with music at the school, and I think I did too much,” said Jared. “ I was at school more than I was at home with all of these activities and I didn’t really have time for homework. It was a lot for me to handle. I was always told to get involved in stuff, but I think I got too involved.”

Jared said it is important to manage your time effectively and ensure academics always come first. 

“For sports and clubs, they’re all fun. Do what you know what you can handle,” said Jared. 

Chrislyan says her toughest challenge was cutting off some friends that weren’t as focused on education as she was. She says it’s hard to hang out with certain friends less, or in some cases not at all, but school has to come first. She says she would tell incoming freshmen to focus on finding themselves in their Grade 9 year.

“Don’t try to impress any other students, just be yourself,” said Chrislyan.

And for Angel, after spending less time playing video games and instead devoting that time to studying and homework, he can now enjoy summer months of conversations with friends and beating boss battles on his favorite video games. He said incoming Grade 9 students will be successful if they can make sacrifices and manage their time effectively. 

“Freshman year goes by fast, so work hard now and relax later,” said Angel.