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Transitioning to HW from a Large Public School

by Ellie K. ’24

Transitioning to a new school will always be nerve inducing experience, and for my 7th
grade self, it was no exception. Harvard Westlake was a brand new school and I was excited for
a fresh start. However, looming scarily in the distance was the fact that I only knew 2 people
going to Harvard Westlake, and none from my old school.
I went to Paul Revere Charter Middle School for 6th grade before transitioning to
Harvard Westlake. The Paul Revere campus was huge- other than my classrooms, I didn’t know
much of the campus at all. More than that, I didn’t know the majority of people in my grade!
There were around 700 kids in my grade and 2100 kids in the entire school. For me, Paul
Revere was a bustling, vibrant community and a place that I enjoyed attending, yet I knew I
wanted something a little more close knit. In addition, I applied to Harvard Westlake because I
knew that my academics and athletics would flourish here.
Before I started at Harvard Westlake, I began to grow fearful of the notion that everyone
in my grade would already have pre-formed friend groups and it would be hard for me to find my
place. When I arrived at school for the first time, I scanned the Commons with a mixture of
uncertainty and curiosity. Then, I noticed that everyone else had the same exact expression that
I wore! There were no solidified friend groups or cliques that every student fears when joining a
new school. It seemed as if every single person at Harvard Westlake was open to making new
friends. Whether you came from a school sending 15 kids to HW or you just moved from out of
town knowing nobody, it was very clear that you didn’t have to worry about not fitting in. As a
shy 12 year old, I had never felt that kind of openness and friendliness before in a new space.
And even though I came from a large school, I never once felt as if Harvard Westlake was too
small. There are so many people with different interests that every person you meet is clearly
very unique, and that the feeling of a tight knit community runs strong.
One significant difference coming to HW from a large public school was the class size
and personal attention. At Paul Revere, my classes had around 30-40 students. At Harvard
Westlake, classes are generally between 15-20 people. Smaller class sizes made all the
difference in the world. Teachers at HW are able to give each and every student full attention in
the classroom. Furthermore, it’s easier to form a close bond with the other students in the class
through in depth class discussions and interesting, engaging group work.
Another thing that was brand new to me at Harvard Westlake was teachers having office
hours, and scheduling meetings with them one on one. I had never experienced anything like
this before coming to HW. I’m not going to lie, in the beginning it was a little uncomfortable and
something that I was super shy about. But it became very apparent that teachers were
welcoming and wanted to help you. Office hours are one of the most valuable things at HW, and
it soon became a part of my daily life. Not only do you gain the extra help you need, you form
bonds with your teachers and learn how to communicate with adults in ways that I never had
experienced before Harvard Westlake.
Looking back as an 11th grader, I’ve come to really realize and appreciate how diverse
Harvard Westlake is. I’ve gained life long skills that I would have never learned if I had not
joined. The beauty about Harvard Westlake is the fact that people can join from all different
places and form a really strong, close community. No matter where you are coming from, there
will always be a place for you at Harvard Westlake that feels like home.

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Last modified: October 9, 2023