tampabay.com

Freshmen have high hopes

By MARYAN PELLAND
Published August 17, 2006


Olivia Black and Brooke Campbell are both looking forward to starting high school, but they realize that being a freshman will take them back to "the bottom of the food chain."

The girls, 14, have started class at Central High and they are good students, unintimidated by heavier academics and greater social challenges.

While they feel there may be rough moments in the year ahead, they say with support from family and friends, they expect success.

"I was born in Brooksville and moved to this house when I was a baby," said Brooke. "I like having tons of friends and I'm going to make more. Of course, I'll study more, too."

Olivia transferred to West Hernando Middle School from McHenry, Ill., in eighth grade. McHenry is at the northern edge of Illinois - and it's not much like Florida.

"I've already made lots of adjustments. School's different here - switching in the middle was kind of confusing. But I've had time to meet people. I'm shy. I want to let people see behind all that," Olivia said.

Brooke and Olivia realize Central High School is larger and unfamiliar. More maturity will be expected of them. They've heard the usual high-school-is-scary rhetoric.

"I made sure all my teachers knew me last year, so I'd get put in classes that are right for me this year," Olivia, who carries about a 3.75 average, said. "I'm not too worried about anything."

She enjoys school and learning, she explained, if there's enough challenge, and she's with people who like serious work mixed with some fun.

Olivia doesn't like, and doesn't expect to find, teachers with a "God complex."

Articulate and enthusiastic, she figures you can get along with anyone in authority if you work with the system. It's not terribly difficult - she taps easily into her serious side. Buckling down and concentrating isn't a problem.

Brooke, a Challenger School grad, calls herself less serious, but she's capable of good focus. She's aiming for straight A's.

"You can fool around in middle school," she said. "Well, you're not supposed to, but I did. Think about it though, high school means your future."

They two are headed for high school with expectations in place. Work will be harder. Social life, more important. Perhaps a boyfriend is in the stars.

Brooke and Olivia say they feel comfortable talking with their parents about personal issues and seeking help, when they need it, from family. They understand peer pressure, but think sometimes that's a good thing.

Friends can steer you right as well as wrong.

Olivia sees herself mingling with her age group, getting involved in extras - activities and clubs. "Resume builders, and that's important now," she explained.

Brooke looks for rules at home to lighten some.

Her dad, a police officer, is pretty strict but maybe high school will change that, if she shows she can handle the responsibility.

Olivia says the next milestone at home will be learning to drive - she has a fair amount of freedom and attributes that to self-control and maturity.

Will their expectations be right on, or are they way off? Around mid school year, Olivia and Brooke will share their experiences to compare anticipation to reality.