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GRADE EXPECTATIONS

No doubt you've seen a futuristic movie that bears some resemblance to the present -- "Blade Runner," for example.

That's what changing grades is like. Certain aspects are familiar, while others make you feel like you have stepped into a strange new world.

Your friends have grown.

Your locker has moved.

Your homework has multiplied.

You probably had some idea what to expect when you started school in September. Maybe older siblings or friends described your future as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. Looking around gave you a sneak preview, too.

But there's nothing like experiencing it firsthand.

"In ninth grade we were spoon-fed," says Amanda Skilton, a sophomore at Wilson Central High School. "The notes were always written on the chalkboard or on an overhead. Now the teachers dictate them. They expect a lot more out of you."

With the added pressure comes the occasional perk, Amanda adds.

"I get to go out later now. Last year I got to go out till it got dark. Now I get to come home at about 10 o'clock."

Less baggage

For Holy Angels Academy student Kate Nowadly, 10th grade has numerous advantages over ninth. For one, sophomores can join more extracurricular clubs than freshmen can.

"Everything is better: the amount of respect you get, the friendships that I acquired over the past year, and the fact that I know the school and the teachers, who treat us more as adults than as children and who give us more freedom," she says.

"As a sophomore you should do better because you're all settled into the high school routine, and you should be more relaxed about it. The social scene should be like that, too, because you know who everyone is."

She has to wait two more years until she'll be excused from wearing a uniform, though.

And what of the babies of high school?

Nicole Kalisz doesn't feel like one.

"We get to choose some of our classes. We're allowed to chew gum. There are fewer hall monitors. They were everywhere in middle school," says the Grand Island High School freshman.

"And you get loaded down with homework. We get a lot more time going from our lockers to class, and lunch is 15 minutes longer. In class we don't have total silence. You can talk a little."

For City Honors freshman Geoffrey Golden, the main difference between middle school and high school is the luggage.

"In middle school you have to get your special rulers. Your protractors. Certain calculators. Glue. Colored pencils. In high school, you carry a lot less. And I think that's far better.

"There's more of an adult feeling, definitely," he adds. "I think the assignments are harder, but there's not necessarily more. Usually by this time of year in middle school I would have received a lot of ditto assignments. And I haven't received one yet."

'Rule the School'

A junior's motto might be "Finally Upperclassmen." And now that she's there, Debi Foley can appreciate how far she has come.

"I think back then I was more concerned with all that little, meaningless stuff, like boyfriends and all the social aspects of school," says Debi, also a Grand Island High School student. "By junior year you're concentrating on doing well to get into college."

The other day on the school bus, Debi yelled at some freshmen who were misbehaving. "I figured, 'What the heck?' Since I'm the only upperclassman on the bus, and I'm supposed to be a role model, why not use it in a good way?"

Since the student parking lot at West Seneca West High School is available only to seniors, Mindy Mallon had to wait three years before she could drive to school.

Now she does -- often.

And she loves it.

Another bonus: the senior cafeteria.

"You're allowed to do more stuff," Mindy says, "but if you don't live up to your expections and break the rules, you go back to where you were as a junior."

And while there's some truth to the notion that seniors "rule the school," this one realizes how soon she'll be back on the bottom of the heap.

"I'm going to be leaving what I've known for three years," she muses.

"I'm going out into a world that I haven't been introduced to. What college will I go to? How will I pay for it? How will I do?"

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