Freshmen orientation kicks off after one year of virtual learning

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Image: Courtesy of Gaby Doyle

Candice Anvari staff writer

Freshmen stepped on campus for the first time at Freshmen Orientation on March 23 upon the release of the district’s reopening dates. Similar to previous years, freshmen played games, received a tour of the campus and bonded with their peers. 

District’s reopening dates for the middle school and the high school.

Due to COVID-19, freshmen orientation did not take place before this school year began. Traditionally, the Link Crew leaders and ASB spend weeks planning the event. However, due to the sudden change in L.A. County’s COVID-19 case rate, there was only one week to plan the event and get Link Crew training in order. The event took place on the track and field, where 34 out of the 66 link crew leaders arrived to guide their freshmen groups. 

Although the planning process was expedited, ASB advisor Nick Henggeler believed everyone did a “great job” making the event run smoothly.

“We only had one week to plan this event. Ms. Marrs, Coach JJ and myself worked together to put on a modified, COVID-safe orientation for all new students,” Henggeler said. “Link leaders had been selected back in September, so we tapped into the existing roster composed of ASB, Service Learning and other volunteers and asked them who was willing to participate.” 

Henggeler was surprised by both the number of students who came to the orientation and the way in which the link leaders rose to the occasion with “minimal” training. 

“Orientation definitely exceeded my expectations. We had over 200 students show up which was way more than I had expected,” Henggeler said. “Everyone, for the most part, seemed really appreciative and excited to be there and this was the first time many students had seen their classmates in over a year, so the atmosphere was really fun and energetic.”  

Although the return to campus was “exciting,” freshman Hank Johansen believes that the emptiness of campus is something that he’ll have to get used to upon returning. 

“Being back on campus kind of felt off because, even though there were people at school, it was weird seeing the school so empty, so that threw me off a little,” Johansen said. “But, I was surprised by how many people came back because there were a lot of people who I didn’t expect to see.”  

Before the orientation began, freshman Edden Mizrahi felt “nervous and excited” to see  both the campus and her friends in-person. But once she arrived, she instantly felt relieved to see her classmates and the games her link leaders had in store. 

“My favorite part of the orientation was the team building with the link crew leaders because I got to meet so many new people,” Mizrahi said. “On the tour, the most surprising thing on campus was the village. I liked how it was like everyone had their own cabin and everything was close together.” 

Link leader senior Nahal Sarafian “loved” how her tour group was eager to learn more about the school. 

 “I really enjoyed my first tour group because the freshman seemed very excited and interested to learn about the school. During the tour, they asked questions, I got to get to know them and they were, overall, a very fun and easy group to handle,” Sarafian said. 

Similar to Sarafian, link leader junior Eli Ramer’s favorite moment of the orientation was interacting with the freshmen. Ramer felt that being around students was a “surreal” experience after one year of virtual learning. 

“Being on campus and seeing all the work that had been done really made me want to return to in-person [learning] even more. It also made me excited for next year, as I was able to see the outside of the essentially completed B2 building,” Ramer said. “I’m sure the freshmen enjoyed seeing the campus because I got some feedback afterwards and some of the freshmen said the orientation made them more likely to return in person after spring break.” 

Likewise, both Mizrahi and freshman Hannah Pinchuk are looking forward to returning to in-person learning. 

“I’m looking forward to in-person learning because I think it’ll be nice to learn normally again and have that sense of normalcy that we don’t really have with virtual learning,” Pinchuk said. 

Henggeler is looking forward to more in-person events now that the COVID-19 case rate has declined. 

“It felt incredible to be able to do something in-person after a year at home. I became the ASB advisor because I wanted to bring students together with fun and exciting events, and that is something we’ve had to be creative with all year long on Zoom,” Henggeler said. “Finally having students in front of me, in the flesh, was so exciting and it made me feel hopeful for the future. It was electrifying just getting to see faces and interact with human beings again.” 

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