Try to remember: You’re an eighth-grader during the last week of May. Two weeks from graduation. Something you’ve only dreamed about because, you know, it just seemed so far away. Yeah, your big sister did it a few years ago. But that was different.
So now it’s your turn.
You’re so excited you can’t focus on much else. Heading to high school. Finally! New classmates and teachers. New subjects like calculus, chemistry and French. And sports like lacrosse, archery and swimming. Plus, all those cool clubs: drama, glee, debate, photography. And the dances. Who could forget the dances?
But, hey, wait a minute!
You’re going from being the big dude on campus to a lowlife freshman. Nobody’s going to know your name.
And that humungous campus! Seemed so big when you visited over Christmas break. How are you ever going to find your classes that first week? For sure, you’ll wind up asking some snobby upperclassmen for directions. And they’ll just be standing around, laughing their heads off.
What about all those hairy AP classes you’re supposed to take to raise your GPA? And if you don’t get straight As, how are you even going to get a scholarship to a good college?
Oh, no! It’s going to be awful.
These are just some of the joys and fears of four graduating eighth-graders Angelus News talked to last month at All Saints School in Los Angeles. Emily Panfilo from Boyle Heights, Brandon Mena from El Sereno, Victoria Beltran from City Terrace and Edwin Kodas, also from El Sereno, were sitting around a table in the parochial school’s cozy library.
Emily is going to San Gabriel Mission High School. “I’m excited,” she said. “I feel like it’s the same environment as at All Saints. A Catholic school. It’s a smaller school as well. And it’s an all-girls’ school. So I think that will be an environment with not the distraction from all the guys. I don’t think I would have gone to a public school or a charter, ‘cause it would have been a different environment.
“And it would have been harder for me to adapt,” she acknowledged. “So I’m just staying with what I’ve always had, even though it’s more challenging in academics.”
Brandon is headed to an all-boys’ secondary school — Bishop Mora Salesian High School on South Soto Street. But it’s a much bigger high school with some 475 students. “I’m really excited, too,” he said. “Because they showed us the video and presented the school to us. It’s like a second home, just like All Saints was for me. It’s going to be really challenging. But I just felt Salesian spoke to me.”
Victoria is following her older sister to Bellarmine-Jefferson High School in Burbank. “She liked how it was a good place to meet new people,” said the 13-year-old.
Since sixth grade, Edwin has heard people talking about Salesian. And that’s where he’s going along with Brandon. He, too, was influenced by the presentation pitch. Also that it’s an all-boys’ high school with both high academic standards and killer sports teams. “My parents didn’t really approve of the all-boys’ thing at first,” he recalled with a chuckle. “But I just told them, ‘Oh, I really want to go there.’ And they said OK.”
So what do the soon-to-be freshmen expect come August?
All four put up a solid front with some trepidations.
“Umm, I think it’ll be a little bit more hectic, ‘cause you have different teachers and different classes to be at every period,” Emily pointed out. “Ours here is just after recess we go to a different room and before lunch we change. And it’s going to be harder. Like Mission is based on IB [International Baccalaureate], so you have to take a test to actually be in the class.”
Did that scare her? Maybe a little?
“It does,” she said, half-smiling. “It’s changing from nine years going to the same school. It’s just different. But my friend Diana will be going with me.”
Brandon was nodding. “I see Catholic high school, as Edwin kept on saying, like another home. Because it’s an all-boys’ school, we’re like brothers. But I picture it to be a lot harder because you have different teachers. So it’s going to take me, like, time to adapt. Because this is all I’ve known since I was little. So changing that and going to something I’m not used to is going to be pretty hard.”
Victoria also agreed that high school wasn’t going to be like middle school. “Because a lot of the work in high school is on iPads or laptops,” she said, breaking into an adolescent grin before returning to a more somber expression. “So it scares me a little bit. I’m not going to have anyone that I’ll know. But I think I’ll make new friends.”
Now Edwin was grinning a little. “Well, I think it’s going to be very challenging, since we’re going to be the small people now,” he observed, breaking up his classmates. “It’s going to be very challenging, ‘cause if you’re going to a Catholic high school they really expect a lot from you since you got accepted there.”
After a moment, he went on with a more serious tone: “But I feel like I can improve and make it through high school at Salesian. But there’s more pressure. My parents are telling me, like, ‘We got you there, and you have to get straight As.’”
That got everybody laughing again.
There was one last thing Emily, Brandon, Victoria and Edwin wanted to make clear about their time at All Saints.
“I’ve enjoyed the nine years I’ve been here since kindergarten,” Emily said. “Coming to a Catholic school is much better ‘cause it gives you more discipline and the curriculum is a little harder, I think. And you learn more about God. So I’ve enjoyed coming to All Saints because of the friends and everybody I’ve met.”
Sitting beside her, Brandon turned nodding: “I’ve really liked my years here. The environment is really cool and fun. And before I came to All Saints, I really didn’t know who God was. Every day, like, I’d come and see my classmates doing prayer, and I didn’t even know what prayer was. So now I know a lot about God, and stories about Jesus and stuff like that.”
Victoria was looking across the table. “I think over the years it’s really changed,” she noted. “And I think since we’ve had a better chance to experience a better education with the new teachers.”
“Well, it’s really changed for me,” said Edwin. “Because when I was at my other public school, like, I wouldn’t really pay attention. As soon as I came here in fifth grade, I was really challenged with the work. I would pay attention. And, it’s just being here. I consider this, yeah, as another home.”
Emily wanted to say one more thing: “I think it’s going to be a new way that we’re going to live our life ‘cause we’ve already made so many friends here.” And her voice became more melancholy. “It’s going to change who our best friends are. But I think we’re also going to stay in contact because we have to come to Confirmation classes.
Nods shot around the table.
“I really had good years at All Saints,” Edwin added. “A lot of memories. And I’m really going to miss the school a lot. I’ll try my best to keep in touch with all my friends, but …” And his words trailed off. “I’m going to miss them all.”