• Rob Scott

Freshmen Hall: Eyesore No More

They used to avoid taking tours through Freshman Hall.

 “It was embarrassing,” says History teacher Josh Carlin.

 The space, in the basement of the Upper School building, was dark, with banged-up red lockers and a gross white floor. You could see everything on that floor: dirt, bugs, and other nasty stuff. The walls were a purpley blue that didn’t match anything else. And it smelled musty. You could tell you were in the basement.

 But this year, the incoming class of 2023 entered a bright, new, welcoming space that the freshmen themselves will get to help design.

 “It’s gone from something that was embarrassing to something we’re proud of,” says Mr. Carlin.

 In addition to having a fresh grade hall, many of the 9th graders are new. Although nearly half the class is new to Friends, the group has already started to mesh and become a united class.

 Upper School head Steve McManus met the freshmen for the first time during Smart Start in August. Already, he couldn't tell the difference between the new and returning students. He also went with them on their freshman retreat to North Bay, where they dove into the activities.

 Carlin was on the trip too. He says he was shocked that no one misbehaved the whole day. He was also surprised that they were quieter than the previous classes of 2021 and 2020.

 Some of these students were put under McManus’s watch in his new advisory. He’s never had 9th grade advisees before, and he didn’t realize how much they needed to learn. He said it’s fun to see them building a new dynamic, and it is like “getting in on the ground floor” with a new class.

 McManus loves the new Freshman Hall. He says it came out even better than he imagined: professional, spacious. And it's not even done!

 Ninth grade dean Christine Saudek agrees. She says the new hall has her “thumbs up,” because it is bright and clean.

 Carlin says he loves the new hall too, because it is a lot quieter than the old space. Students can all go into the lounge and close the door.

 Because of the new Freshman Hall, Carlin lost his classroom. But he said he likes his little office that no one comes in, and he likes the classroom he shares with Saudek.

 McManus says he hopes the freshmen's new space will help them create an identity as a group, and feel like they’re part of the Upper School community. He also hopes they will not be ostracized, or considered “those freshmen.” He says upperclassmen should think about what we can do for them, to make them feel welcome.

 As for advice for the new freshmen, McManus says: “Don’t be afraid to dive in and join things. Being new can cause hesitancy. Stop asking ‘Is that cool?’ and do it.”

Saudek agrees.

 “Take risks to try new things,” she advises. “But not, like, vaping. Join a new club!”

© 2020 Friends School of Baltimore Quaker Quill