Welcome to Upper School Night: Joining the Old and New

By Katie S. 
May 20, 2019

On a May 1, Wednesday night, students gathered in Braun for the Welcome to Upper School night. Current eighth graders and incoming ninth graders joined together in a big melting pot of old and new.


The glittering disco ball that hung from the ceiling reflected light off the amber wood spreading across Braun’s floor. The atmosphere in Braun felt slightly squashed, as the eighth grade’s class size was nearly doubling with the new mass of students arriving.


Before the actual night started, socializing and melding between current and new students took place outside Braun. Punch and cookies awaited on a table, and the introductions began. Some current students reconnected with old pals, while many brave souls interacted with new students.


Some current eighth graders were nervous about the ginormous wave of newcomers, while others excitedly anticipated getting to know some fresh faces.


“I was extremely nervous because they're all cool and trendy, and it's intimidating,” Megan B., ’23, responded when asked about the incoming ninth graders. For others, it was a fun experience getting to know new people. “First impressions mean everything; they are the start of friendships,” said Anna F., ’23, a current eighth grader and Spyglass member. She added, “Meeting new people is exciting because you can make new friends.”


Many new students commented that the all-girls environment was a definite pro of coming to Westridge. “It’s a really different experience and better to socialize,” said Jacqueline L., ’23, an incoming ninth grader. “I am excited about the all-girl school in high school,” mentioned Sunday L., ’23, from Chandler.


For parents of incoming ninth graders, Westridge’s sense of community was a big factor in making their decision for a high school. Robert Waller, a new parent to Westridge, said his family was drawn to Westridge because of the “warm and welcome community.”


The night officially kicked off when Peer-to-Peer introduced themselves and initiated an icebreaker game that broke away any remaining tension. Soon, people were smiling, and nerves started to drift away. Anelise P., ’20, a member of Peer-to-Peer, said the goal of the night was to “give the new freshmen a chance to get to know each other.”


Later, everyone was split into predetermined groups of 7-10 people. Each group was led by two Peer-to-Peer members for question time. The new ninth graders seemed to ease their way into the rhythm of Westridge, and the 6-day rotation schedule finally started making slight sense.


The Welcome to Upper School event served as a way to introduce current students and incoming students to each other, but it also marked the nearing end of Middle School and the approaching unknown of Upper School.


For some, Upper School is a welcome development in their Westridge experience. Isa A., ’23, was looking forward to Upper School. “You get freedom in choices of classes, and a bigger grade means more opportunities to meet new people,” she said. For others, Upper School meant changes that weren’t necessarily positive ones. “All your grades count, and I’m afraid of not getting into a good college,” was Gabby C.’s, ’23, biggest concern for Upper School.


Kids weren’t the only ones nervous about high school; parents were just as nervous as their child. “One of the things that sometimes kids don’t know is that for as anxiety-ridden or nervous about high school [they] may be … , parents get just as nervous about it,” says Gary Baldwin, Director of Upper School. “All the parents are about to go on a journey together, exactly like the kids are all about to go on a journey together.”


Although many parents are nervous about the transition to Upper School, they are also excited for their daughters. Current parents of Westridge eighth graders note the increase in self-confidence that has accompanied their daughters in her Westridge journey. Jessica Bronson, a Westridge parent, expresses her hopes. “I hope that [my daughter] continues to be curious, to take risks, and to develop friendships.” She adds that Westridge has shaped her daughter in the way it has “helped her become who she authentically is.”