Making high school better

Every day there are students waking up for school with either dread filling every inch of their body or total exuberance and readiness to start the school day. Thankfully, I have always enjoyed going to school.

I want to make the school experience appreciable and awe-inspiring for every student that attends Greenwich High School. It’s important that we not take all we have here for granted. Growing up as a child living in Greenwich, I have at times failed to truly appreciate the realities of other children both in other parts of the country and in other parts of the world that are not as fortunate as I am and I know I’m not the only one who has done that.

As privileged as we are to attend such an outstanding school, some students fail to realize the opportunities we have to learn and receive a superb education here. I recently attended a meeting led and organized by the Connecticut Commission on Children, which was held in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. This meeting involved some of the most influential people in government in the state of Connecticut, as well as Cynthia Germanotta (who might be better known as Lady Gaga’s mother) who spoke on behalf of the Born This Way foundation.

The main goal of the meeting was to bring school leaders together to discuss ways to change and improve school climate. That’s a focus that I want to bring back to Greenwich High School, and eventually spread to schools throughout Greenwich. I want to take negative energy and put it into a positive light.

Consider this, in the GHS student center, the “sections” there are actually a negative representation of non-direct bullying. Despite every student being allowed to sit wherever they want, there are unwritten rules that make it unacceptable to sit in the “wrong” section because of your grade, your social status or if you are considered a “d-winger” a jock, or a “ghetto.”

I know it is hard to hear at times, but in high school everyone has a label. A main goal of mine and other students who attended the meeting is to try to take off the labels assigned to high schoolers and let everyone be themselves in an environment where they feel free and accepted to be who they really are without being judged. I know this idea seems virtually impossible, because bullying will always happen no matter what.

But if we help students cope with how they feel, then it may help them to go out and not just be a bystander, but actually go out and become an ally to those being bullied. I remember vividly when I was a GHS freshman that I did not understand why I had to sit in a certain part of a certain section of the student center to be considered “cool” or “popular.”

Every teenage girl wants to fit in and be welcomed by others and teens in general have a natural tendency to want to conform and feel comforted and wanted by friends. Some people will do anything to be part of a group, including treating others badly just to show their superiority. I want to advocate for individualism in high school and create a safe and secure environment in school.

A positive school climate and culture will make more kids want to come to school, rather than a place where they feel like they have to come to. Another point that was brought up in the conference was how people bully others to feel better about themselves. My mom would always tell me that people are mean and bully others because they are jealous or self-conscious but I never really believed her until now.

Now I know that this is not just something my mom told me to make me feel better, it is the truth. As Taylor Swift would say, “People throw rocks at things that shine.”

No matter what people say or do, remember to always stay true to yourself, it will go a long way. By fostering a loving and secure environment in school, kids will feel self-motivated to be kind to one another. Through ongoing kindness throughout school, it’s hoped that the students will actually look forward to going to school instead of dreading it. I look forward to making this dream into a reality at Greenwich High School and hope it will ultimately set a precedent for other schools in our area, in the state, and throughout the country.

Erika Hvolbeck is a junior at Greenwich High School.

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