School’s start brings mixed emotions

School’s start brings mixed emotions

Story and Photos By Amanda Cohen, Special to the Light

The old saying “all good things must come to an end” resonates loud and clear to youngsters and teens who have to say goodbye to summer fun and load up their backpacks once again. But with the start of a new school year comes certain expectations: I hope my teachers are nice, I am definitely going to do better in math, I plan to make some new friends.

During the final days of summer break, we asked several area elementary, middle and high school students about their hopes – and their dreads – for the coming school year.

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Gym and recess are what excites 7-year-old Ethan Sandweiss when he thinks about going back to school. He is looking forward to participating in Jump Rope For Heart, a fundraiser put on by the American Heart Association. And he can’t wait for the brand new playground at Conway Elementary School in the Ladue Horton Watkins School District where he will be a first-grader.

However, the playground isn’t the only new thrill for Ethan. He and his family are moving, so this year will be his first at Conway. Last year, he attended Old Bonhomme Elementary School, which is also in the Ladue district.

“I am going to miss Old Bonhomme because I only got to be there for kindergarten, and I had so much fun,” Ethan said.

But he looks forward to being a cool older boy and a role model to the kids a grade below him.

“We’re the second youngest group in the school now,” the first-grader said with a toothy smile. “I’m happy that we have littler kids than us.”

Ethan said at first he was nervous to switch schools, but after he toured Conway, he was instantly soothed.

“I’m sad that summer is ending, but I am happy because I am starting a new school,” he said.

Richard Lottes, 11, spent his last Wednesday night of summer hosting a slumber party for a few friends. The night consisted of sixth-graders wired up on Mountain Dew, inside jokes and wrestling matches. They playfully threw soda caps at one another, talked to friends online and pranced throughout the room.

“This is my second sleepover in a row,” Richard proudly said. “This is my third this week,” chirped in friend Nate Clinton, 12.

The two know that when they return to Forsyth School this week, these sleepover marathons will come to an end.

Nate said he didn’t really want to go back because he was having such a fun summer.

Slumber partier Gage Horowitz, 11, disagreed, saying, “I’m excited for school because I am interested about what we are going to learn.”

The three boys will soon face a major turning point in their lives because this will be their last year at Forsyth. Next year, they all hope to go to John Burroughs as seventh-graders.

“I’m really excited because both my brothers went there, and it seems like so much fun,” said Richard.

Shortly thereafter, Richard’s father hummed the magic word “dinner,” and the three boys sprinted up the stairs to fill their bellies with homemade spaghetti and meatballs. They gulped down milk in between bites, while they chatted with white mustaches. Meanwhile, Richard’s dad gathered the ingredients to bake sweet chocolate chip cookies for the sweet boys, ultimately completing the perfect slumber party.

Hannah Gold and Maya Shetty, both 9, said they were each other’s number one best friend. “We’re practically like sisters,” they simultaneously giggled.

However, their giggles came to a quick end when they explained their fear of not having the same teacher this year.

“I’m really sad and a little frustrated that Hannah is not in my class,” Maya said with a frown.

The two girls are entering fourth grade at Old Bonhomme Elementary School, and they always had class together. Last year was the first time they were apart, which they described as very difficult. They hope this year will be better.

“When we are in the halls walking we will say hi, and at recess we will definitely stay together,” Hannah said. “When I’m done with my homework, I’ll call to see if we can play, and on the weekends, we can have sleepovers,” Maya quickly added.

While not having class together was a major concern to the girls, they were also nervous about their other friends.

“I haven’t seen them in a long time because we’ve been traveling, and I’m afraid they’ve changed or found new friends,” Maya said. Hannah continued to explain her apprehensions by saying, “I hope my friends don’t leave people out.”

Hannah also hopes she will succeed with her academics. She plans on reading a lot and receiving good grades. “When I get home, I want to go straight to my homework,” she said.

Corey Rosenberg, 16, spent much of his summer perfecting his golf swing at the Creve Coeur and Ruth Park golf courses and tackling his friends at a weeklong, intensive wrestling camp at the University of Missouri. He said he couldn’t wait to go back to school and play more of these sports.

Corey is a sophomore at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, and though he realizes he may be one of the younger competitors, he remains very positive.

“Being a second-year wrestler, I don’t have that much experience,” he said. “But winning matches will keep me going and get me excited.”

As for golf, the 16-year-old is more confident; he has been playing since he was 7.

Before sports begin, Corey will have time to get acclimated with his schoolwork, which he stressed was very important.

“I really hope to be a doctor when I grow up,” he said. “Keeping my grades up will help me get into a good school.”

Corey said he was sad summer ended, but happy to return to school to see his friends and meet his new teachers.

Jaclyn Raskas will be in seventh grade this year at Churchill School and Center, which means harder homework and more exercise. She returns to school Aug. 30.

“I think this year is going to be good because I am going to be challenged more,” she said.

Though Jaclyn anticipates a heavier workload, she hopes to also meet her academic goals outside of school, such as reading more difficult and longer books.

As for exercise, the 12-year-old said that her and her classmates have to run a mile two times a week in gym class. Though Jaclyn admits that running is not her favorite activity, she said she was excited to get in shape.

Meanwhile, in between working out, reading and doing homework, Jaclyn will have to squeeze in time to prepare for something very important to her and her family. In May, she will have her bat mitzvah, which she described as both a nerve-wracking and thrilling process.

Zoe Wallis, 14, had many great friends in middle school, but she didn’t like to consider herself in one particular “clique,” which she described as sometimes catty. As a result, she avoided the drama and was friends with everyone.

“My mom told me sometime in my life, it may be high school or college, I will meet someone that I have so much in common with and we will become really close,” Zoe said. She just began ninth grade at Parkway Central High School and is ready to meet that special person.

Zoe was excited for high school because she envisioned it as a place with “no popularity problems.”

“I’ve heard no one really cares about who you hang out with,” she said.

Some of the girls she will be “hanging out” with will be her new teammates. The 6-foot-2-inch Zoe just made junior varsity (JV) volleyball, which she described as a very vigorous process.

“I feel really honored that I made JV,” she humbly said. She is also very hopeful. “These might be the people that I become really close with and I just don’t know it yet,” she continued, smiling.

Zoe also smiled when she talked about how excited she is for basketball in the winter. “I’ve been playing since I was five so I’m pretty comfortable with my skills,” she said.

While Zoe’s height will help with sports, and her sweet disposition will help with meeting new friends, she hopes her hard work will bring good grades.

“I’d love if I got straight A’s,” she said. “It’s going to be different because now it counts.”

“I’m sad summer is ending, but I know it can’t last forever,” said 16-year-old Matt Williams. He soon shrugged off his grief and said with a smile, “I guess I’m ready.”

Matt is a sophomore at Whitfield School, and says he planned a pretty strenuous schedule. Unlike many of his friends, he chose to take an extra elective rather than a free period. “School will require a lot of focusing and a lot of time,” he said.

Moreover, Matt is excited to see how this year will turn out. He explained that many instructors are teaching different subjects and grades than the previous year, while others have left the school. Matt believes it will be a positive change for Whitfield.

However, a not so positive change for Matt will be waking up early. “I doubt any kid wakes up at 7 or 6:45 in the morning during the summer,” he said. “It’s going to be rough.”

Matt will have to buckle up and caffeinate because this will be the first year he can drive to school. He received his driver’s license this summer. He laughed as he acknowledged that he will probably be the taxi driver among his friends until the next one in his circle gets his license.

Ruthie Polinsky, 17, is now a senior at Clayton High School and taking full advantage of her last year. She is balancing being co-president of the drama guild, a club that prepares younger students for theater auditions, while managing a full class schedule, visiting colleges for next year and trying out for the winter play, “Oklahoma.”

Ruthie has been in school plays since she was a freshman, and she can’t wait to perform again this year. She said that Clayton theater is very competitive and intimidating, which is why she embraces her position as co-president. Before tryouts for the play, Ruthie plans on holding meetings and activities for the younger actors and actresses. She hopes to give them a taste of Clayton theater and help them feel more comfortable.

“I’m excited to be a role model,” Ruthie said. “I hope to set a good example and to have a lot of fun.” She also stressed that staying focused and doing well in school is very important. It seems schoolwork is not just a priority to Ruthie, it’s also a hobby.

“I’m not having a lunch period, which should be interesting, because I am taking extra classes that I want to take,” she said. Though she is excited for her schedule, she explained that it may be a challenge.

“First semester is going to be really stressful with applications and getting adapted to my new classes,” she said. However, Ruthie is enthusiastic and has high hopes for the year.

“I’m hoping this year will be my favorite year of high school because I’m the big kid now, and I know what to expect,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to senior year, and I hope it’s a year that I will remember forever.”