Q & A with Sofia Orapallo on the Transition from Middle School to High School Amidst a Global Pandemic

By: Anna Sareyka

Sofia Orapallo, a freshman at Garnet Valley High School

The Freshmen Class of 2025 have undergone a bigger change than normal. After being forced to spend the rest of their middle school years virtually beginning abruptly in March of their 7th-grade year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic; they are now in high school. So much has changed for them between 7th and now, 9th grade. 

Sofia Orapallo, a 9th-grade student now attending Garnet Valley High School, shares her thoughts and feelings about the transition and the new school. 

Q: How are you liking high school so far?

A: I really like high school so far! It’s a lot less scary than I originally thought it would be. 

Q: How is high school different from middle school?

A: High school is much more independent than middle school, which at first, I was terrified of, but now it’s my favorite part. I was nervous [about] having to do a lot by myself, but now I realize that it’s a good thing. Also, the high school has so much more opportunities, with clubs, sports, and classes. 

Q: How is high school in reality different from your expectations?

A: High school is so much different from my expectations. Over the summer, we had to read a choice book for summer reading, and the one I picked was “Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie” by David Lubar. In that book, there was a lot of bullying and other negative things going on. It’s often like that in the movies about high school too, the freshman [are] bullied and have trouble. However, in real life at GV, people are just more like, “Whatever, you’re a freshman, oh well.” High school has been great for me, and it seems a lot more chill, no one is mean to each other, you do what you want, and no one judges you. 

Q: What’s your biggest concern for this school year?

A: My biggest concern for this school year is adapting to the workload, and how much more important it is to study and get your work done on time. There’s not a lot of second chances anymore like if you don’t turn something in, it’s not always going to be half-credit, it’s just going to be a zero. Teachers aren’t as lenient in high school. 

Q: What’s the hardest class you are taking this year?

A: The hardest class I’m taking this year is Non-Western Cultures, honors. It’s a lot of work, and you have to do more research on your own. Unlike middle school, the answers aren’t just given to you, you have to focus and work hard to find the answers. 

Q: What’s your favorite class so far?

A: My favorite class is biology. I know a lot of people don’t like science, but it’s actually interesting and really fun. I used to hate science and was really bad at it, but biology seems pretty cool. I really like my teacher, Mr. Chiplonia. 

Q: How do you like your teachers so far?

A: I like the majority of my teachers. So far for me, there’s been two types, there’s the strict type, who gets straight to the point, and there are the really nice ones. I probably have an even amount of both. I think the majority of my teachers are really understanding, and work to help the students. I love my teachers this year!

Q: Who’s your favorite teacher?

A: My favorite teacher is my biology teacher, Mr. Chiplonia. Everyone calls him Mr. Chip. He’s new to the district this year, and he’s a really great teacher. He connects with everyone in the class and makes sure everyone understands. 

Q: Have you joined any clubs or sports yet this year? If so, which one(s) did you join?

A: I haven’t joined any sports because I already do dance, which takes up a lot of time, so I probably wouldn’t have time for a school sport. However, I have joined 3 clubs. I joined HERE, Girl Up, and the Mental Health Club. HERE is basically an equality club. It talks about LGBTQ equality, discrimination, stuff like that. Everyone is welcome and included, and it’s really nice. I know that Girl Up is about female empowerment and equality, but I’m not totally sure since we’ve only had one meeting. I’m excited for the Mental Health club, which had its first meeting on 9/24. 

Q: Did you go to school hybrid last year or did you stay online?

A: I went to school hybrid last year. It was much better for me than being fully virtual because it was easier to pay attention and more engaging. It was also nice because it wasn’t as difficult of a transition to be fully in person this year as for someone who did virtual learning all of last year. That would have been really hard for me. 

Q: Any tips that you have for current 8th graders who will be incoming freshmen next year?

A: Yea! I would recommend that you get in the habit of turning your work in on time and starting to take school seriously because school is taken a lot more seriously in high school. Also, don’t be nervous about 9th grade! There’s honestly nothing to be nervous about. All the typical things an 8th grader would probably be nervous about, like bullying and judgment, don’t really happen in high school. Finally, just enjoy middle school while you can. 

Q: Do you have any ideas on what you want to do for college?

A: I don’t know exactly what I want to do for college, but job-wise, I think I might want to work with kids, specifically younger kids, like preschoolers. I love to babysit and really enjoy hanging out with kids. I am interested in joining the Little Jags. 

Q: What classes do you want to take some time in your 4 years of high school?

A: I want to take Intro to Psychology, because it’s good to know if you want to work with kids, and I find it interesting. I also want to take Child Development. Its main focus is on childcare and the development of kids. This is important to know if you want to work with children. 

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