Freshman, Seniors share thoughts on what “The High School Experience” means to them


Olivia Theaker

Whether it be focused on academics, sports, work, participating in events, or building relationships, the high school experience means something different to each person you talk to.

Eyes lit up with exuberant anticipation, while just across campus a quiet room contains feelings of passive reflection. A chuckle, an eye roll, or thoughtful contemplation – all things that occur when one mentions the phrase, “the high school experience.” 

“High school to me means having fun and making reckless memories doing things that I will look back on and think why?! [It also means] making new friends and trying new things,” declared Hailey Burns excitedly. 

Today’s freshman may seem pretty confident at first glance, but after losing a year of middle school and jumping into a whole new environment, anxious feelings toward their future involvement in school are bound to occur. 

“For me personally, the biggest change [to the high school experience] will be getting used to getting back to normal,” said Burns. “[It’s] going to be really difficult seeing multiple people hugging and being around each other.” 

This may be the first year where freshmen mention people hugging as a potential concern, but despite anxiety about being out in the world again, underclassmen are hopeful for the opportunity to try new things throughout high school.

“I really want to look into more of the clubs or just get involved with the school more often,” Burns said.

Burns gets involved through practice with the cheer squad. (Hailey Burns)


Similarly, Chloe Clifford (‘24) said “Getting involved with things as much as possible would be good, and also not being too into myself and being open to talking with others.”

These goals tie in with Clifford’s overall view of the high school experience.

“To me, high school means making new friends, finding new hobbies, and trying to find out who you are as a person.”

Clifford engages with her peers by participating in theater company. (Chloe Clifford)


Some familiarity with the school and enthusiasm for new beginnings currently motivate freshmen to seek new experiences at the high school. 

“Coming back to school, knowing people… meeting the teachers, [and] the freshman tours” were some of the ways Burns mentioned she felt comfortable returning to school. Another was the fact that “everybody [at AGHS], even if you didn’t know them, were happy to help you.”

Although, even with helpful resources, coming back has led to some difficulties in freshman finding their place. Some students are struggling with what classes to take or where to find their crowd in high school when there aren’t too many people on campus. 

“I wish I would have known about the opportunities[ available at AGHS]… I kinda just had small ideas of what kind of classes were here, especially with my teachers in middle school trying to prepare and help me with my scheduling and everything,” Burns noted. “I love the classes that I’m in, but if I could take different ones I would, just to get the experience.”

It’s tough for the incoming freshman to get acclimated to high school during a normal year, let alone one filled with brand new procedures and schedules, but overall these freshmen seem to have come to the consensus that their future experience is worth pushing through the difficulties they may face. They look forward to finding new passions and interacting with their peers once again and ultimately figuring out what “the high school experience” will mean to them over the next four years.

Burns concludes, “I definitely know that as I grow older and I learn more in school and… the different types of things that I can do in my life, I know that I will change because I’m changing already.”

For seniors, their final year of high school has brought reflection on how their views and personalities have changed throughout the years. 

Senior Leo Bulacso moved to AGHS from the Philippines after 10th grade and feels he has thoroughly grown as a person throughout his time in high school, both in the Philippines and here in Arroyo Grande. 

“I feel like my first two years of high school in the Philippines, I was very immature and didn’t really care about what I said to people. In the last two years, especially last year, when I moved here, I realized a lot of things and how little words, little things that you say to people can really affect you. I feel like [understanding] that kind of makes me more mature. It really helped me connect to people more which is a great thing.”

Christie Osborne, also a senior this year, mentioned she has matured a lot as well in her ability to balance multiple areas of her life. 

“I’m a lot more mature than I was my freshman year, not in the way that you think but more in a way of dealing with things and seeing the consequences of the things that I do… and in time management and being able to juggle all three aspects of my life [school work, sports, and a social life.]”

Despite the knowledge they have gained about themselves after their time in high school, these seniors admit they didn’t have it all figured out when they first started. 

Bulacso struggled with a language barrier and a switch in high school dynamics from his high school in the Philippines to the AGHS campus. 

“For my experience, learning the language and having difficulty connecting to people, because I have difficulty transitioning…[has been] the main challenge for me…It’s also a different school system… [In the Philippines,] high school goes from seventh grade to tenth grade, and then they have another kind of higher-level high school… but you go into a different school then.”

Bulacso was also a bit caught up in what the high school experience meant according to his peers.

“I was wondering why all of the people ahead of us were saying that the high school experience was the best experience…Going into high school, you kind of have pressure on you to have fun, because they say that it’s the best years of your life,” he expressed.

Bulacso has come to realize that his true meaning of the high school experience has been about fostering relationships with and gaining new perspectives from his peers. 

“Obviously, we go to school for education, for academic purposes, but I feel like high school gives us more than that education. I feel like the high school experience is all about meeting new people, connecting to people, and learning from the people that we meet, and that’s something that school itself can teach us. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s a beautiful thing.”



One way Bulacso connects with his peers is through One in Five club, a mental health awareness group.
One way Bulacso connects with his peers is through One in Five club, a mental health awareness group. (


Covid-19 has actually helped Bulacso develop those connections which he deems as a key aspect of the high school experience. He didn’t really know where to start after moving here from the Philippines, so online school helped ease his nervousness about all of the changes surrounding him. 

“For me, personally, the whole online class helped, because when I moved here, I didn’t really know what to expect, so I was overwhelmed by a lot of things like meeting new people. Online [school] really made it easier for me to adjust to the school…It’s also easier, at least for me, to participate in class, because in person you see a lot of people, so you’re afraid to share your opinion on things or participate in class, but in this setting… although you also see your other classmates, it’s not fully in person, so you’re more comfortable talking.”


Bulacso works online with the yearbook class. (Leo Bulacso)


Bulacso thanks a couple of teachers for the kindness and dedication they showed in helping him prevail over some of his struggles. 

“I really loved Mrs. Hoover. She helped me a lot with my English…Also, I really appreciate Mrs. Hurtado for letting me in Link Crew because Link Crew helped me overcome my shyness and [habit of] not opening up to people. That helped me a lot in terms of school.”

Bulacso’s gratitude shines as he reps his leadership shirt. (Leo Bulacso)


For Osborne, high school initially meant a compelling chance to break away from the structure of middle school. 

“I think I was pretty excited, just to get out of middle school in general. I was excited about all the activities that I was going to do in high school… mainly activity-wise and class-wise, because in middle school it’s very structured, and it is pretty structured in high school, but there’s a lot of different outside classes that you can take on your own, that you don’t necessarily have to take.

However, with more freedom and time to spend participating in activities and classes, came difficulty for Osborne in managing these aspects of life. 

“[The hardest part of high school] would be juggling school work and sports at the same time, as well as a social life..going to school for six hours during the day with practice in the morning and then practice after school, and then having to do homework. Over the weekend when I wouldn’t have a game or something, I would go hang out with my friends, but then I would have schoolwork over the weekend that I saved from the week…because I didn’t have enough time during the week [to do it]. It was all about time management.”


Osborne’s hard work in managing sports with school pays off as she and the AGHS water polo team celebrate a big win. ( mentions that AGHS teacher Aaron Sue, by understanding she had a lot on her plate, helped increase her drive and made coming to class enjoyable. 

“I’ve had Mr. Sue twice. I’m not as good in math as I am in any other subject in school…and he was my geometry teacher so he helped me out a lot….and also understood the amount of work that I had… He was able to take something that kind of sucked and made it a lot better. He made it fun.”

However, Osborne’s difficulties with time management from previous years ceased when Covid-19 left her with not much to do. 

“I think the biggest change for me was with sports because I play water polo. [Initially,] my day consisted of waking up at 5 am every single morning, and then coming home at like 7 pm every single night …so my days went from extremely busy and packed to doing absolutely nothing, which was a very big change for me, especially since it didn’t happen gradually. It just happened all at once.”

Over time, and through navigating the effects of Covid-19 on this year, Osborne has realized that no matter which path you take in high school or what turmoil you may face, your experience is simply a reflection of whatever you choose to make it. She feels that whether it be through activities or classes, overall, high school is an opportunity to try to get involved or find ways to connect with your peers and the school. 

“[As a senior,] I would say the high school experience is a lot of work, but so much fun at the same time, if you apply yourself…like with the lunchtime activities…you can sign yourself up or you can volunteer to do those things, or you can just sit and watch…I feel like if you apply yourself, high school can be a lot more fun than what most people would say it is because they don’t involve themselves in the experiences and activities.”

Osborne attends a staff basketball game to engage with campus life. (Christie Osborne)


After four years of figuring out the high school experience, the seniors would like to offer the underclassman some advice. 

Osborne wants the freshman to know the importance of staying on track academically and then incorporating a social life around an academic foundation. She also feels Cuesta classes are a great option for students looking to get ahead of the game in gaining credits.  

“I would say freshmen [should] focus more on school than social life. Especially as a freshman, because it’s a huge change going from middle school to high school and I would say focus more on your social life later on because once you get the hang of everything more you’ll be able to have more time for other things. Also, take Cuesta classes…be involved, and get good grades.”

Bulacso feels the most important part of enjoying “the high school experience,” whatever that may mean to you, is to simply be genuine. 

“The best advice I can give to them is just to be you…that’s the only way for you to enjoy things.”