Transfer students and teachers face challenges, offer insight

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Julia Record, current DHS student, stands in front of her old school in New Jersey.

DHS students may not think of their school as being particularly special. However, transfer students and teachers can offer new perspectives on things we take for granted. As we take a closer look, we can see major differences between DHS and schools not even an hour away. Transfer students and teachers, like Mr. Kim, a new social studies teacher and Julia Record, a junior from New Jersey, are able to offer perspective into how Deerfield compares.

Although being the new kid is always difficult, there are some resources available specifically to help them. Peer Helpers is a group that was formed more than 20 years ago and is currently run by Mr. Sykora. The club’s main goal is to help transfer students settle into their new school. Peer Helpers has eased the transition of many transfer students by helping them make connections through one-on-one peer assistance. From Mr. Sykora’s experience, the hardest part of coming to a new school is making new friends.

“Not knowing anyone, that’s first … It’s easy to feel very overwhelmed as a high school student anyway and then being in this building and not knowing any of the systems, layout, or anyone is a very intense situation.” Mr. Sykora said.

Deerfield is one of very few schools that offer this kind of assistance to ease the transition. The committed group of students and teachers that make up Peer Helpers work hard to help students, like junior and transfer student Julia Record, get the support they need to have the best possible year.

“The most rewarding part about it is actually when students come to a meeting and they feel comfortable enough that they can open up and share difficult moments in their lives with our group, and they know that it is a loving, caring and supportive group.” Sykora said.

Julia Record moved to Illinois from New Jersey after her father got a job in the area. Julia was more than excited to start fresh in the Midwest. Although she came from far away, her school wasn’t all that different. Record recalls that her old school, Ridgewood High School, had an almost identical composition of students.

“There are always those people in the class who want to impress the teachers and the kids who just stay quiet, just like in New Jersey.” Julia Record said.

On the other hand, Mr. Kim can sense major differences between the students from his past teaching job and his new students. The new social studies teacher came from only an hour west in Carpentersville. He taught at Dundee Crown High School, a school with noticeable differences.

“There’s definitely major differences, but I see many similarities as well … In terms of differences, right off the bat the most striking thing is the ethnic makeup. Dundee Crown is about 50% Hispanic, 30% white, 10% black and the rest mixed … About 60% of Dundee Crown was poor and on free and reduced lunch. A lot more poverty and right across the street from Dundee Crown was the Section 8 housing, government subsidized housing.” Kim said. According to U.S News, Deerfield’s student body is composed of 91% white with only a total minority enrollment of 9%. Mr. Kim had some expectations before coming to Deerfield that the student population would be different from what he was used to.

“Not knowing anyone, that’s first … It’s easy to feel very overwhelmed as a high school student anyway and then being in this building and not knowing any of the systems, layout, or anyone is a very intense situation.””

— Mr. Sykora

“North Shore has some qualities that you associate with it. The kids here are very affluent and come from wealthy families.” Kim said.

Deerfield students may have more resources at their disposal than students at other schools, but Mr. Kim truly believes that any kid has the potential to be great.

“All the qualities I had in my AP students, hardworking kids. You always have the kids who are worried about their grades and where they are going to school. They both are really engaged … But no matter where you see kids it doesn’t matter what school they come from. Kids are kids are kids.” Kim said.

In both Julia and Mr. Kim’s cases, the abundance of politeness has been surprising. Julia believes it’s the atmosphere that makes people kinder. She says that the occasional “Hi!” in the hallway, which may seem commonplace to us, sets DHS apart from schools in other areas.

“People were a lot more welcoming here. They say hi in the hallways. People say hi to me and it makes me feel comfortable because people weren’t as friendly…It’s just something to do with the Midwest.” Record said.

This politeness may go unnoticed by other students and teachers, but not by people who have recently transferred. According to Mr. Kim, the first class etiquette was extremely surprising.The undeniable courtesy carries over into the classroom as well. Mr. Kim was caught off guard at how many students thank him after teaching a lesson. “I have never experienced that before. They are very polite, not to say that students at DC weren’t polite and hardworking, but you can definitely sense that they are high achieving.” Kim said.

After settling into DHS, Julia Record and Mr. Kim, along with many other transfer students and teachers, are excited to start off the new school year. Mr. Kim, especially, is looking forward to coaching the wrestling team and figuring out how the block schedule works. They will both be happy to get into the swing of things and are thrilled to be starting a new year at Deerfield High School.