Dear (Virtual) Incoming Class of 2024: How Freshmen Are Entering Stuyvesant

A look at how freshmen feel about starting their first year of high school during a pandemic.

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By Rachel Chuong

Walking onto the bridge, mind heavy with worries, you enter a completely new building. Not knowing where your classes are, sitting alone at lunch, you feel exhausted already. These all serve as fundamental memories of the first day of freshman year. What we remember, however, will be an entirely different experience for the incoming class of 2024. Instead of entering through its doors, most of these freshmen will be introduced to Stuyvesant for the first time through a screen.

Most freshmen have already gotten a taste of Stuyvesant virtually. With virtual orientations like Camp Stuy and the Big Sib Field Day, the incoming students have gotten the chance to interact with their homerooms. Freshman Nelli Rojas-Cessa is among the many freshmen who have Zoomed with their peers. “I've had homeroom Zooms. We played games online and just talked about things we liked and Stuyvesant-related topics,” she said.

Virtual meetings such as these are the only way incoming freshmen have been able to meet new friends. “The homeroom Zooms were fun to attend,” incoming freshman Everett Torrey said. “It’s nice to have some connection to people at Stuyvesant and to meet new people despite social distancing.”

Meeting one’s Big Sibs is a rudimentary part of entering Stuyvesant as a freshman. Many freshmen have been able to connect with their Big Sibs despite the circumstances. “I don’t think the fact that it was virtual affects how easy it was to connect with the Big Sibs,” Rojas-Cessa said.

“I do feel like I’ve been able to connect with my Little Sibs virtually, particularly those that made an effort to come to a virtual homeroom meeting we had,” Big Sib Ian Zaman stated.

Even virtually, Big Sibs have provided a support system for the freshmen. “The Big Sibs are friendly and provide useful insight about Stuyvesant. They share valuable information as to how things work and share tips for school,” Torrey said.

Not being able to meet other students in person comes with its own challenges. “While there are calls for Big Sibs to connect with incoming freshmen, there are no calls for incoming students to connect with other incoming students. Unless you meet someone who is willing to set up a call like that, I never really get to know the other incoming students,” Torrey explained.

It’s much harder to talk to students one-on-one during a virtual homeroom meet than in an in-person one. “The Little Sibs interact during Zoom meetings, but it’s usually more of a Big Sib-Little Sib interaction rather than a Little Sib-Little Sib interaction, and I’d love to see that more,” Zaman said.

The incoming freshmen also feel the effects of this issue. “Aside from the people here who I was in the same [middle] school with before Stuyvesant, I don’t know anyone in my class,” an anonymous freshman said.

Some students have found a solution to this. “There’s a fairly active Discord server, many Instagram accounts, and a lot of big group chats,” according to Rojas-Cessa.

Going remote also poses other concerns for incoming freshmen, apart from getting to know their peers. Torrey expressed his concern about not getting to know the school well enough. “I am not familiar with the physical school itself. I have been inside the school twice … Both of these visits were more than six months ago, making me slightly nervous about going there,” they shared.

There is also a concern when it comes to the uncertainty of the quality of virtual education. “I just simply don’t know what classes are like in Stuyvesant, blended or remote. I am concerned about how well I’m going to do in everything I end up participating in,” Rojas-Cessa said.

An anonymous freshman also felt that they lack knowledge of how classes are going to work. “If I had a real idea on what our classes are like, then I would actually know whether I’m prepared or not, but maybe the fact I don’t know means I’m not prepared,” she said. They also feel like they will be missing out on many classes such as electives and APs, which are getting cut.

As for joining clubs, incoming freshmen have to keep a close eye out for posts in the Facebook groups. Because it is unlikely the Club Pub Fair will be happening this year, students have to find clubs online. “I’m planning to learn about clubs through what they reach out with. A lot of clubs have already advertised on Facebook, and I have already contacted people for information about the club,” Torrey shared.

While the incoming freshmen won’t be able to have many of the normal experiences other Stuyvestant students had in their first year of high school, the class of 2024 is trying to make the best of the situation and find the silver lining. “My experience has been difficult yet exciting, but everyone so far has been very nice to me and has helped make Stuyvesant feel more welcoming during these strange times,” Torrey said.