The number of new students has expanded since last year at Orcas High School, including returning students and new students from different places around the world.
Tree McElhone, a freshman, expresses his gratitude for the people that live here and their respect for him, as well as other people. “I’m transgender, and it’s nice that my teachers and everybody goes by the right pronouns. People will tell me if they don’t want to talk about certain things, but they don’t shut me down.” He is extremely grateful that the community and school environment are both accepting towards him. McElhone deeply believes that acknowledgement and true respect of his gender are important for him, and others that might feel or be different. When comparing his previous school to OHS, he notes that students’ attitudes are completely opposite. “There was way more bullying at my other school. Everybody is accepting here, and it’s nice because I am a weird person, and it’s nice not to be bullied because of it.” He said that he only had one friend at his old school, whereas on Orcas, he sees friends and nice people all around him. “It’s a long list of people that I am happy and comfortable around.” McElhone especially loves the class Human Geography, taught by Val Hellar. “I like history and the teacher, and the history of the teacher. Val is one of my favorite teachers because she’s like family. She’s always there and super nice. She teaches well; she explains concepts in ways I understand.”
Hilde Arts, an exchange student from Holland enrolled as a junior at OHS, also says that the Orcas community has been very welcoming and accepting. “Everybody is nice here, so I don’t have a reason to be different.” Compared to her old school, OHS is a fraction of the size. “This school is really small. There are 2,000 students [at my old school], so coming here has been a big change. I like that it’s a small community because you get to know everybody really fast. This school has benefits, and so does my other one.” Her host family happens to be the same one with which previous exchange student Jackie Shi stayed. Arts is staying active in her new surroundings by participating in soccer, Key Club, Next Generation, and Teen Tutoring. Her favorite class is Algebra because she enjoys math, but, “my favorite teacher is probably Mr. Comito because he explains everything very well.” Arts misses everything from her home back in Holland, but is happy to be on Orcas. “Everything is new here. Not only the school, but the people and culture.”
Returning sophomore student Charlie Bigbee also says that Orcas is a welcoming place. “I like that everyone knows everyone. The people here are very friendly.” Taking a variety of classes, Bigbee said that yoga is her favorite class because it’s a good way to start the day. “My favorite teacher is Corey. He’s a nice person and really easygoing. I take the classes yoga and yearbook from him.” However, she misses her friends from the east coast. Her previous school, like McElhone and Arts, was a lot bigger than OHS, which she likes. “The Orcas community doesn’t judge you for who you are.”
Other new students have recently arrived at OHS, and will be reported on in subsequent issues.