MHS accomodates for influx in new student population

Risha Chada | The Chronicle

The annual flood of new students into Mason High School since 2001 has not ceased, and neither will administrative efforts to help students better adjust.

Over the past 20 years, Mason High School (MHS) has been welcoming an average of 180 new students every year. With stress placed on the administrative department to accommodate the schedules and graduation requirements of these students, Mason has developed an effective system to integrate these students into the high school. 

Missy Courts, administrative assistant to the guidance office, often sets up meetings with counselors and new students and sees the uncertainty new students face when entering into a larger high school. Courts said that it is important for new students to get involved in school clubs and activities at any new school, but especially important at MHS so new students can find a starting point when placed in a grade of approximately 800 students. 

“It’s a little harder when you’re a teenager, because it’s not like when you were six or seven and met kids playing ball outside,” Courts said. “When somebody comes in already involved in something it makes me so happy because there’s a group of friends right there.”

Diya Bhat, a senior at MHS who moved from Georgia two years ago, agreed with Court’s assessment of the difficulties when trying to meet people at a new school. Bhat moved to Mason the summer before her sophomore year, leaving her with a summer in an unfamiliar suburb and no friends. Bhat was left to look to school to make friends, and even then, a school of 4,000 students left her all but stranded.

“When I moved to Mason it was super overwhelming and stressful, primarily because of how big it is,” Bhat said. “I wish I had gotten more involved in clubs and sports early on when I moved, that way, I could’ve gotten to know a lot more people.”

MHS is aware of the daunting task new students like Bhat face, however, and took steps to implement a new student orientation to help them adjust to student life. The new student orientation takes place in early August and helps those new to the district meet others in the same situation as them. Bhat said that being able to connect with other new students helped her find people who she could relate to and who held the same initial worries and loneliness she felt.

“The orientation helped a lot with understanding the school layout,” Bhat said. “Mason did a great job helping me find my way.”

Despite the school’s best efforts, students like Bhat still felt struggles of coming into Ohio’s largest high school. Bhat said coming to MHS, with about 4000 students overall, was vastly different from her old school, which had around 500 total students. 

“It’s hard to move anywhere, but I think it was harder moving to Mason,” Bhat said. “Not only because it’s Ohio’s largest school, but also because it’s definitely a lot more competitive compared to my old school.”

Freshman counselor Megan Pay, who is in charge of incorporating freshmen into the high school and helping them adjust to it, said that she understands the difficulty of transitioning to the extensive building of MHS and the struggles that come with trying to find your place at the school.

“I do worry that some of [the] new students may struggle to find a place here at Mason with [such a] vast number,” Pay said. “There are so many different ways to get involved and so many clubs and organizations, but sometimes you do have to go seek that out and if that’s not in your nature, then I worry about that transition for some students.”

With Pay’s experience helping freshmen and new students alike acclimate to the high school, she believes that there is a key difference between being a freshman and entering the district completely new. Pay said that while both groups of students are new to the high school, most freshmen have already had friends or have seen familiar faces in the school as opposed to new students who do not. 

“If you have been in Mason for a few years, you at least have that core group of people or classmates that you recognize and feel comfortable around,” Pay said. “Whereas with new students, they’re coming into this new building and sometimes there is a struggle to find that core group of comfort people.”

Harper Stull, a sophomore at MHS, has experienced the despondent venture of being new twice in her two years of high school, and agrees with Pay’s assessment of the difficulty of not having a “core group” coming into any high school. Stull was first new to Ursuline Academy as a freshman and moved to MHS for her sophomore year. Stull said that the student cliques that are normally present in stereotypical high school were never glaringly obvious or exclusive to Stull at MHS.

“It would be hard to be new no matter where I was going, but it wasn’t as hard to be new here,” Stull said. “The hard part wasn’t blending in, it was finding my people.”

Like Stull, sophomore Jeremy Patterson has been labeled “new” twice in his two years of high school. Patterson came to MHS his freshman year, but was online until this school year. Patterson said that being new at MHS last year through a remote learning platform was difficult and made it hard to connect with any of his classmates.

“[Online] I would ask my teachers any [questions] I had, but I couldn’t really talk to anyone else,” Patterson said. “[In-person] my counselor was really helpful in showing me around the school, she also told me different things I could [join] and it opened me up to a broader horizon.”

Patterson also acknowledges while it was hard to find connection with other students, Mason had many opportunities that were not available at his old school. Patterson said that Mason has a wide variety of classes that allowed him to explore more of what he enjoyed.

“There’s so many [options] you can choose an AP, Honors, or even a regular [course],” Patterson said. “I took psychology and physical education, and now I’m in ceramics, which is something I’ve really wanted to do and now I can.”

While MHS has made strides in helping new students adapt to the school, Pay believes that MHS still has room for growth. For students like Patterson and Stull who utilize MHS’s courses and clubs, it is much easier to adapt to the school, but the difficulty for new students is in coming to an unfamiliar school and finding activities they love. Pay said that she believes a way to improve how MHS integrates new students would be allowing new students to make connections to other students before starting school.

“As humans, for the most part, we thrive on connection, so adding layers of connection could have a positive impact on how students [adjust] coming into this building,” Pay said. “Some students who are more introverted and struggle to find ways to get involved may benefit more from it.”

Graphic by Izzy Gaspar’raj