Dear Freshmen


Jillian McGuire, Columnist

Here you are in ninth grade, ready to face Earth Science and US History. I remember when I anxiously awaited the day. I wish somebody would have told me what to do and what to expect —  tips for what felt like the rest of my life. I am not a senior yet, but I’ve done some reflecting on what I have learned so far.

Do not allow yourself to become consumed with what others think of you. This took a long time to learn, and unfortunately, the lesson did not stick until I learned it the hard way. My sophomore year I took a class made up of almost only seniors.I considered dropping this class on the first day because I was convinced I could not handle it and that the seniors would find me annoying. They did not care because they were focused on themselves. Some of the seniors even became very close friends of mine. I’m glad I took the class and challenged myself.

Your grades are important but so is having fun. I spent hours refreshing my PowerSchool and lots of time consumed with my GPA. If I could start over I would remind myself that in the grand scheme of things your grades do not define you. This does not mean I would not try, I would simply find a happy medium sooner rather than later. I would study for that test but I would not let myself miss out on opportunities like sporting events or late night talks with my favorite people.

Take an AP class, but only do it if it is something you are interested in. Also, don’t take classes because your friends do. Last year it felt like all my friends were taking an AP class while I took the normal version. I do not regret not trying the class though. I was not ready and I know the class was not right for me. I decided an AP class in a different field was more for me. You know yourself and what is right for you.

Try a foreign language/ class that challenges youI almost didn’t take Spanish 3 this year because I’m not great at Spanish. I always manage to achieve a good grade, but sometimes it takes extra work. I decided that I can’t allow myself to miss out on opportunities that good be good for growth because I am worried about a letter grade.I recommend taking a class that challenges you as Spanish does for me. It is in taking classes that challenge you that help you achieve a strong sense of work ethic that will take you further than your grades will.

Volunteer, but don’t do it because you want something to look good on your applications. If you are going to volunteer find something you care about and see how you can help out relating to that. I volunteered at a nursing home and because I enjoyed it I still volunteer despite meeting the school’s volunteer hour limit my freshman year. This experience also helped me learn a lot about myself. I also have done volunteer work serving a meal to the homeless and helping with paperwork at an immigration shelter. I didn’t do things for my transcript; I did them because I care about those problems. In doing so, I believe I got more out of the experiences.

Care about everyone. I have been fortunate enough to be close with many different people throughout my time at Mount Vernon High School. One time I remember I was at a school event, and I was surprised to find a girl I considered popular to be left at the school alone waiting for a ride. Her friends had ditched her. This taught me a lesson that everybody, no matter how great you think they are, gets left out sometimes, and the best thing you can do is offer them kindness or even just a ride home. If I could go back I would spend less time consumed with thinking anyone was more worthy and just be kind to everyone including myself. Do not allow yourself to become one of those people who think caring about things is a waste of time. Care about everyone. 

Turn your jealousy into happiness for your friends.”

— Jillian McGuire

Let people enjoy things. I did not make the cheer team when I tried out my eighth-grade year. Because of that, I made fun of the cheerleaders. Don’t be like me. Turn your jealousy into happiness for your friends. I have faced defeats time and time again. This year it was not making student council. Try out again if you want or don’t but if something makes others happy, encourage them to enjoy something they are passionate about and realize they are other opportunities and activities for you.

Stand up for what you believe is right. I have a learning disability and often I get modifications related to this. This can include extra test time and a couple of other modifications. I use to be embarrassed about this because I felt it made me less smart. The truth is kids with disabilities deserve the same opportunities and rights as kids who don’t. I learned that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and ask for the modifications you deserve. I would be embarrassed when I entered the classroom after getting extra time in a different location, but I realized nobody should be embarrassed about doing what is best for them. Don’t allow high school to feel like a race with you in last place. Understand everyone is running a different course. This lesson applies to everyone whether you have a disability or not. Do not mock others for being different from you, or call them names. Simply understand they have different needs then you and that is okay.

You are special. Believe it. I often felt I was nothing special during my time at school. I am not an excellent athlete or great student so sometimes I felt left out. The thing is nobody cares that much after high school what you achieved, you will be remembered for the type of person you are. Understand that and realize that it is okay to not be on varsity and it is okay if you don’t have a perfect GPA. Trust yourself and most importantly believe in yourself. I could not have realized this without my amazing best friends who constantly let me know I deserve every good thing that happens to me. I also have had support from some great teachers who have helped me understand that grades do not always show success and a strong work ethic will take you places grades can’t.

You will change. Embrace it. I’m not the same person who walked in the door, and I won’t be the same person when I graduate. You learn and you grow. I use to let that thought scares me but I believe if I had embraced the change, I would have had an easier time when it occurred. Try new things during these four years, and embrace the uncertainty of change as best as you can.

Have fun at dances and other school events. Often at a dances, I would see girls upset because of drama with friends or because a boy would not notice them. Do not spend the time meant for having fun focusing on anyone else. Dance and do not be embarrassed about not being able to dance. Nobody cares what you look like. You only get so many dances and chances to have fun so don’t worry about having a date our drama of any kind.

Jillian’s Journey is a column written by junior Jillian McGuire reflecting on her high school lessons. It will appear bimonthly on The Mustang Moon.