The Bar-On Brief: This small gesture could make or break someone’s year

How we should welcome new students to our school

By Shauli Bar-On , Columnist

The Bar-On Brief: a weekly column
The Bar-On Brief: a weekly column

Those of you reading this fall into one of two categories:

The first — you know just about everything that has to do with HHS.

You may have been studying here for months, worked here for decades or have siblings who passed down their knowledge to you.

The first weeks of school are not all that dramatic to you. I’ll bet some of you were even getting bored with summer vacation and were counting the days until you got to see all your friends again. The majority of you, myself included, group here as the “oldies.”

The second type of person scrolling through this article is the “new-comer.” While the oldies finished up a great reunion with their friends this week, the new-comers are going through the most traumatic, stressful time of their lives.

By now you should have identified your category. Not to worry, the following flashback is relevant to you both.

Illustration by Kira Garlick
Illustration by Kira Garlick

Most of you probably can’t remember what the old quad looked like. The old junior oak tree stood iconically in its center, the senior stage was off-limits to my freshman self and we the underclassmen were delegated to the now non-existent “freshman wall.”

Having been thrown into public school from an unheard-of private school, I knew only a handful of people. With my luck, none of them were in any of my classes, so I found myself alone every class and passing period.

Lunch was even harder: the rush of people overwhelmed me. I didn’t know where to sit or where to find the few familiar faces I was banking on for company.

After coming home the first few days of school, I researched celebrities who hated high school. I wanted to feel as if I could still be successful with no real friends or group during lunch. Thankfully, I read about the antisocial Steve Jobs who kept my hopes up.  

It took a day for me to realize I was no Steve Jobs, and that I needed human interaction.

It was right around then, the second week of school, that I was approached. Good guess, but it wasn’t from my HOP tour guide. In fact, it was nobody special, just a student in my business class.

He didn’t say anything striking or unique, just a comment on the soccer jersey I was wearing, but it made my day.  

Everything seemed to work out from there. The following days were lightened by high fives in the hallways and an invitation for lunch.

So if you’re worried about finding your way, just be patient and wait for that student to introduce him or herself to you. If you’re impatient, try speaking up too. You’ll be surprised how welcoming our school is.

Your “hello” won’t necessarily come from a HOP leader, your class president or the most popular teacher on campus. It’ll come from the person that wants to make you feel welcome.

Now to all you oldies, be that person. Spare a smile or handshake to the nervous new student you see in class of the halls. What’s the worst that can happen?

It could make someone’s day, year or more. But just as likely, it could just make yours.

And with that, I rest my case.

The Bar-On Brief is a weekly column that runs Thursdays. 

Follow Shauli Bar-On on Twitter @shauli_baron