The Great Divide

The Great Divide

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN Students try to find their place in the tight-knit social groups. Photo by Mary Clare
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN Students try to find their place in the tight-knit social groups. Photo by Mary Clare

If we ask a young Hockadaisy what she wishes for on Earth, she might say “world peace,” something that can be attained through unification of the peoples. But how can unification among seven billion be achieved when there are struggles to find unity among groups of 120 girls?

Sophomore Ripley agreed that there is a sense of disconnection among not only students in their grade level but also throughout Upper School.

“I do feel gaps both in and among the grades,” Ripley said. “Many people don’t have the desire to change their [social situation] at all, and it makes it hard for others to enter into such tight-knit groups.”

The Student Relations Board and Upper School Student Council are doing a lot to combat the problems that a divided Upper School can bring. For example, a recent grade bonding exercise played out in the sophomore class in response to a lack of social diversity. The hope was to expand the social horizons of the sophomore class. The issue, though, was a close-minded attitude to the idea of making new friends.

Sophomore class president Maura said that the initial feedback before the organized meeting was almost completely negative.

“A lot of people didn’t feel like they needed to get to know other people outside of their own friends,” Maura said. “I think everyone’s just gotten really comfortable in their friend groups.”

Another reason bonding activities during the school day are not very popular among the students is the fact that they believe that their free time is being taken from them.

“People feel like they are being forced to go to [the activities] and, therefore, they are no fun so there isn’t anything coming out of them because they are either skipping their Y period or their homework time,” 2013-2014 Student Relations Board Chair Allie said. “What we are trying to focus on next year is really promoting unity and making it a time when everybody can be together and want to be together.”

Allie said that big changes are underway in order to promote unity. She has taken the social issue into her own hands and is experimenting with interesting angles that could increase a better sense of community.

“My vision for next year is making a change within the relationships in Hockaday,” Allie said. “I [want to make] it less of a ‘me-oriented’ community and more of a community where we go to everybody’s games, where we go to the mixers, where we support one another before we support ourselves. I want [to make] it more of an ‘us-based’ community.”

One way Allie hopes to increase the unity of the Upper School is by increasing school spirit through pep rally activities that students can partake in. Also, with plans to incorporate the different boards such as Convocations and Athletics, Allie plans to blend all the different aspects of student life to create an overall union.

Hockaday made a major new effort to increase class unity last year with the creation of the sophomore and junior retreats. Junior class sponsor and English teacher Kyle Vaughn said that he “felt strongly” about the freshman program at Mo Ranch and the senior retreat but he noticed something else: both the sophomore and junior classes seemed lacking in what the freshmen and seniors had.

“[Both grades], sophomore year in particular, sort of has its nickname as ‘the forgotten year,’ and it doesn’t have much to it,” Vaughn said. “I really wanted to bring something meaningful to the sophomore and junior experience.”

After working closely with Dean of Students Meshea Matthews and Upper School Head John Ashton, the first successful “sophomore retreat” was formed that “built leadership skills and offered some group bonding and also some fun,” Vaughn said. The sophomore retreat was deemed a success, so the current juniors had another retreat this year at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Overall, one of the biggest reasons why unity is so important is reflected in the coming of new students.

Upper School Guidance Counselor Dr. Margaret Morse ’94 said that “there is not as much structure” coming into sophomore and junior years. The freshmen have Mo Ranch in order to become acquainted with each other, and this year, Camp Daisy, an orientation for all incoming freshmen, was started. Matthews said it was created in order to serve as “an additional support system for bringing new students on board.” It helped form new bonds among returning and new students.

Another way that the school is working towards a smoother integration of new students is the likely establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee which would be a part of the Student Relations Board.

“[The committee would be] made up of new students,” Matthews said. “I am hopeful that they will be able to give us some sincere feedback on how to bring new students into the school.”

It is necessary, though, that everyone is open to creating new friendships. Morse said “a lot of responsibility is going to fall on the new student” to make the first step in making friends.

“You really have to go in with an open mind and make sure you are open to making new friends, and making yourself look like you want to make new friends.”

Senior Nancy, who was a new student her junior year, said, “It was really obvious that I wanted to get to know the grade quickly. Once you integrate, it’s not really a problem being the new kid anymore.”