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A group of high school sophomores reflect on changes they've made and challenges they face

Editor’s note: In fall 2015, NeXt Correspondent Amelia Waddell interviewed
several peers as they left middle school for high school.
Amelia recently checked in with these students to see how they’ve grown
and changed since the start of freshman year.


Faye Panagopoulos

Faye’s life has changed significantly in the past year and a half.

"I stopped dancing and I became even more invested in soccer than I was before," Faye says.

"I recently started playing on a premier soccer team called Empire United, and I’m absolutely thrilled about it. I have bigger goals than before, such as playing college soccer and doing well in school.

"I also plan on getting a job, she continues. "I am more goal-driven and confident I will succeed with all my goals."

Now a sophomore at Kenmore West High School, Faye says her responsibilities have increased. She now takes AP classes required for the International Baccalaureate program. She hopes to receive an IB diploma by the end of senior year.

"Since most of my classes are more difficult than before, I need to study to get the good grades that I used to get so easily," she says.

Faye thought high school would be much different than it actually is.

"It’s nothing like how the movies portray it, that’s for sure," she says. "Of course, you have the stereotypes such as theater kids, jocks, ‘bad’ kids, ‘smart’ kids, popular kids, etc., but what I think is the cool part about it is that many people don’t just fit into one category, they can be in many, and even if you aren’t, everyone still talks to everyone."

Faye’s worries about maneuvering through the school building are now eased and she believes she can handle the heavy workload.

"I just need to work on not procrastinating as much!"

Faye feels she has matured and grown as a person since last year.

"As a person I think I’ve become more confident and responsible. I understand now how hard my parents work just to raise a big, fat Greek family like ours! I’ve also come to realize more about myself," she says.

Faye is still undecided on a career path, but she would like to keep soccer a main priority throughout college. Unlike last year, she does not see herself going into politics. Instead, she has been thinking about going into sports medicine, becoming a professional sports trainer, or an orthopedic physician assistant.

"I like these career choices because I would like to stay involved with sports and help athletes return to their sports better than ever after an injury. Although I can’t be playing soccer forever, I want it to be always be part of me."


Sean Phillips

Sean, currently a sophomore at Canisius High School, believes very little has changed in the past year, he but has been working on becoming a better student.

"Now that I’m older and have more responsibilities, it’s important to be more of a responsible student," he says.

Furthermore, he says high school is nothing like he thought it was going to be.

"As a freshman, I assumed high school was going to be a lot easier than it actually is," he says.

Although he’s been faced with many challenges, Sean says they biggest one has been making new friends. But throughout the past year he has found a way to overcome that.

"I’ve always had trouble making friends, but I’ve seemed to make friends with a lot of good, fun people," he says.

Sean has matured and become more focused on his responsibilities with school.

"I’m making sure to do homework without reminders and stay after school if I need help without teachers asking me to," he says.

Sean, too, is indecisive about his career choice.

"I’m not sure what my dream career is. I know that it has something to do with math and science of some kind."


Emma Naab

Emma, who attends Sacred Heart Academy, says the main things that have occupied her life have been rowing and art.

"I started rowing for West Side Rowing Club in the fall of freshman year. We had a very successful novice team last year and even won the states," she says.

"I have expanded my knowledge of art," she continues. "I, along with five other girls and our art teacher, designed a monument in respect to all the donors that helped with the ideas and construction of the new athletic center at my school. It now stands in the lobby of the athletic center."

Emma also believes that her responsibilities have changed and have become more focused on her art.

"I wish to attend art school and need to build my portfolio," she says.

Emma’s goals have become more defined. She now knows exactly where she wants to take her artistic responsibilities. And traveling is still a very important goal.

"I want to be an art teacher either on a high school or college level. I still want to travel the world more than ever, and the list of places I want to visit just grows longer."

Like her peers, Emma says high school is nothing like she thought it would be.

"It’s even better than what I expected," she says. "There was this unnecessary pressure because my mom had such an amazing high school experience and I expected the same."

Emma has faced a variety of challenges, such as time management, but ahead of her is what inevitably every high school student will consider a challenge: "Looking at and applying to colleges."

Emma has made some important realizations about herself.

"I have grown as a person by realizing I have a voice and that I can stick up for myself and others," she says.


Lindsey Beck

Lindsey, a student at Mount St. Mary Academy, believes that she has matured as her responsibilities have increased.

"I understand now how much work is put into pursuing a career.," she says. "My responsibility is so much greater than when I was a freshman because of new standards the teachers have set for us."

High school is a lot harder than Lindsey expected it to be.

"The amount of work is beyond my expectations this year," she says.

Still, her goal is the same as last year, to succeed at whatever career she chooses.

She has also encountered the challenge of time management.

"I’ve really struggled this year with balancing and prioritizing all my different responsibilities, such as school, my family, and extracurriculars."

Lindsey has come to understand a very important lesson.

"This year, I’ve learned to respect and be kind to everyone because it isn’t worth your time to put others down and certainly won’t have a good effect on them, either."


Frank DiGennaro

Frank DiGennaro, a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, discussed some changes that have affected his life.

"(Donald) Trump is president, like I guessed," he laughed.

"But more importantly, I’ve grown as a person. My grades went up and I became more worried about college and, honestly, a lot more stressed."

Frank’s major responsibility is being able to drive now.

"I have to be more conscious of my actions. A lot more is expected of me now," he says.

He believe his goals have changed drastically. Now, he would like to go into a career involving space exploration.

"My dream career is something aerospace. I’m hoping to change the world and be heard."

Frank has been able to overcome various challenges and is faced with new ones.

"I’ve overcome my academic challenges and have been getting homework done. I now have to find who I am as a person and what I believe in. Also, my grandpa is in the nursing home now, and that’s been hard. Life is changing pretty quickly."

He has also come to realize that life is hard and that it’s important to push through.

"I’ve come to realize that the world isn’t as nice as you think. And to be more careful who I trust. As well as, I’ve come to know what things are important to me," he says.

Grace Hollmer

Grace, a student at Amherst High School, is also happy about the responsibility of driving and the increasing difficulty of school.

"I’m driving now, which is exciting. School is a little harder, as well. I have to make sure I keep my grades up while going to dance, but I also have to think about college and what I want to major in besides dance."

Grace’s goals have remained the same, but have become more of a priority.

"I still am striving to keep above a 95 average and to keep improving in dance. My dream career is to be a professional ballerina."

Unlike the others, Grace feels high school is what she expected it to be. Nevertheless, she has faced many challenges, such as time management. She also is faced with the new challenge of driving.

"I’ve faced challenges in balancing everything I have going on. Furthermore, trying to get all my school work done while taking all my dance classes and not missing too much of those classes. But also finding time to see friends and spend time with family while getting all my work done."

Grace is starting to learn a difficult lesson.

"A new challenge is learning how to stay positive about myself and let my inner feminist come out. I’m still working on knowing that it’s OK to stand up for myself and what I believe in."


Lucas Mills

Lucas, a sophomore at St. Joe’s, believes change is very hard to see in yourself. He, too, is faced with the responsibility of being able to drive.

"I did get taller like I wanted to. I think I became more mature. It’s hard to tell, you, yourself, without someone else’s point of view, but I think I’ve grown up. Now that I’m 16 and I’m allowed to be on the road – I’ve wanted to do that ever since I was a little kid – but now that I’m able to do so it’s a little terrifying."

Family and friends are very important to Lucas and have become a priority. On the other hand, school also has come to the forefront.

"My family personally I think depends on me more. I have new friends I want to be loyal to. My school work has become a much bigger part of my life and I have to start thinking about colleges soon," he says. "Life is changing and I’m gaining responsibilities and losing others from when I was younger."

Some changes are hard to get used to.

"It feels like yesterday I was terrorizing the halls of St. Paul’s and St. Amelia, but now I’m at one of the best high schools in Western New York. When people ask what grade I’m in, I still say I’m a freshman."

He also found high school different than he thought it was going to be, but he loves going to school.

"Life is good as St. Joe’s. Seeing all my brothers is just great. Also the work isn’t as overwhelming as I pictured it, yet it is still a big part of my life. And the teachers are amazing. Without some I wouldn’t be where I am today."

Lucas has faced challenges academically and athletically, but he knows his greatest challenges are about to come.

"I always seem to pull through. Compared to some people I know, I haven’t faced much difficulty, so I believe I must be preparing for worse."

Instead of focusing on the negatives, Lucas has come to focus on the positives of people.

"I try to look at the good before the bad in people and I’m a good friend. That’s a good quality to have."

Another, major challenge for these high school students is losing friends. Lucas believes that there is no great explanation for it.

"I made realizations that have made my life change. It’s weird how things like that happen people that you thought would be there forever ... you just grow apart. I don’t know why that is and it blows my mind."

Finally, Lucas has some advice to anyone that is having a hard time in school, athletics, etc.

"Just keep going, because you’ll find people that you can depend on and that support you unconditionally and you will grow to be stronger every time you fall."

Amelia Waddell is a sophomore at Mount St. Mary Academy.


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