By Mollie Butler
Each year, Beacon accepts a number of transfer students, some of whom enroll midyear. The Beacon Beat interviewed a few such sophomore transfers to shed light on their transition process. They explained the factors that drew them to our school: a great advisory program, a welcoming student population, and teachers that have helped them adapt to the Beacon environment.
As the students adjust, they also face new challenges–a sudden increase in workload and having to learn to navigate the PBA system on the fly. They also reported social challenges; in fact, two students who were interviewed chose to remain anonymous, reporting that they are not confident that all “native” Beacon students would overlook the common stereotype of the outcast transfer.
“Personally, I loved the comforting and friendly environment of my old school Frank McCourt. I found it easier to find and connect with different people,” says Luli Portnoy, a sophomore new to Beacon. She spoke of the pros and cons of both schools, and of how important a school’s social atmosphere is to a high school student’s overall experience.
“ A part of my old school that I really enjoyed was how connected each grade was. I feel that being in classes and working with students from all grades gave me a greater sense of community and perspective on certain subjects. That’s a part of my academic life that I miss,” says one transfer student who required anonymity.
All the transfer students experienced challenges on their first day: “I felt a nervous excitement. I already knew many people and felt comfortable with my social life; the sense of nervousness came from the stereotypes often placed on students who transfer schools,” says Luli Portnoy. She felt that the first day was a defining moment for her social experience at Beacon.
For a transfer student, the social change that accompanies changing schools can often be very drastic or abrupt, yet the larger challenge seems to be the change in academic life. Welcoming teachers can alleviate this pressure. When asked about the teachers’ assistance to the new students Luli, reported that “overall, they were all very accommodating and kind to me. They really didn’t treat me differently, except for explaining some basic Beacon philosophies to get me started.”
Luli also received help from her advisory, which was “very welcoming,” as students offered to explain Beacon’s ways and invited her to eat with them: “I feel that is a great outlet to just talk about my week and my struggles.” Another transfer student commented on how she had found a teacher to trust through her advisory.
The Beacon Beat also asked interviewees how they are adjusting to Beacon academics. “ I still do not know what to expect for PBAs, but I am working on time management with the help of my teachers. I honestly am still transitioning to the workload and the various clubs Beacon offers. It is definitely an abrupt change from the workload of my old school,” notes Luli Portnoy.
“I find it so interesting how involved Beacon is with current events and the taking of the New York Times quizzes–because of Beacon I feel more in tuned with the world,” says one transfer student who chose to remain anonymous. “I feel the experience will truly benefit me as a student and transform my learning to work on actual problems in the world and not just filling in a bubble.”
All in all, Luli feels positive about her decision to join our Beacon ranks: “My transfer to Beacon was probably one of the greatest academic choices I have made. I truly feel that Beacon has pushed me to become a more active part of society with all the protests and discussions of politics and current events. I hope and feel that Beacon will give me the knowledge and voice to be an active part of the world.” From the point of view of several transfer students, it appears that Beacon’s progressive and welcoming environment has already begun to set in, helping shape their views.
Despite the mostly positive comments, some transfer students still fear being judged for their late entrance to Beacon: “Although I feel fully welcomed into Beacon, I still feel as though I might be given more advantages with kids feeling pressured to welcome me or for teachers to cut me more slack then they are supposed to. I wouldn’t want to put this pressure on others,” one transfer student reports.
The fear of judgment and stereotypes held by transfer students is not exclusive to Beacon, of course, but it can make the transition a rocky one for our new peers. It’s up to us to support them and help to make sure their Beacon experience is as rich and positive as it is for those of us who have spent their entire high school careers here.