A COVID silver lining

By Vivian Collings

It’s been a couple of months since I sat down with Jenn Mills in the principal’s office at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School to chat about her new position, but I still think about her words often.
Whenever I go to the school now to take photos for the paper, I’m struck with an atmosphere very different to the one I had when I attended as a Red Hawk myself.
The feeling in the school and her goals for the school align perfectly.
I really did love attending Hal High. My friends and I reminisce about classes we wish we could take again, events we want to relive, and sports games we wish we could play in one last time.
I loved my experience, but the feeling in the school was definitely different to how I feel going through those doors now.
It’s funny how our brains remember how a place makes us feel and will recreate those emotions until we gain new experiences in that same place.
Pulling up in front of the big brick building still gives me the same nervous butterflies – as if I’m about to be late for the bell, stand up for a book talk, or take a test in my next class.
When I walk in, though, it feels so different from when I was there.
If I had to describe how it feels to be within those walls now, I would use the words open, inviting, and accepting.
It feels like a safe place to be yourself. Students are open to sharing their art or giving sports their all.
At one given time, there are so many different projects being made, lessons being learned, and experiences being expressed.
It feels as though “cliques” have been thrown out the window.
Hal High is full of smaller groups, yes, but because of all the new opportunities and clubs to join for students, they seem to be interest-based now.
I know I’m just an outsider looking in, but it feels so refreshing.
It seems as though COVID can maybe even be thanked for playing a part in creating this atmosphere.
For two years, students were either isolated to their own homes or restricted to only interacting with those in one home room classroom for the entire time they were in school.
I can’t even begin to imagine what that might’ve been like.
One of the most important parts about being a teenager is getting to build relationships with others and expressing yourself through your interests.
Those are two focuses that HHSS staff are trying to bring back, and I really think they are succeeding.
“Students are definitely more social now. It’s back to that normal life now. Students can now meet and interact with anyone in the school,” Mills said. “We’re finally back to normal, and we can finally do things together again which is amazing.”
It really seems as though a supportive setting with lots of tools to help students succeed, like mental health services, has created an environment for students to grow, thrive, and build stronger, more accepting relationships with each other.
Again, this is from an outsider’s perspective, but I will just end with this; I wish I could go back to high school.