Park Ridge High School is a small school. There is no getting around that fact. Yet, it offers a strong sense of a tight-knit community with a surplus of support from all staff members and other students. So, what happens, after six full years in this building, when we finally leave the Owl’s Nest and migrate somewhere new? It can be intimidating and daunting, but the students at Park Ridge High School have been preparing for this moment their whole lives. It is exciting to see what the PRHS alumni are doing with their lives outside of the walls on 2 Park Avenue.
Before I became the Editor in Chief, I worked as the Assistant Editor under Michelle Galdi. Truthfully, she is the person that encouraged me to join NightWatch in the first place. Working alongside her grew our already existing friendship even more. So, on behalf of the current NightWatch members and school community, I thought it would be a good idea to interview the former Chief. Though she has only recently completed her first semester as a freshman, it has already given her life-changing insight not attainable to us in high school. Also, although she is no longer involved in any media-based classes (Sorry, Mr. Andresen), she is engaging in new opportunities her and dealing with newfangled challenges current home, Quinnipiac University, offers.
As a first team all-league recipient for lacrosse her junior and senior year, Michelle could not imagine leaving the sport that brings her the most joy. Lucky for her, she did not need to. She was able to make the club lacrosse team as well as join the ski club and become a part of the Students of Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA). While these are only a few clubs, Quinnipiac and other universities around the country offer hundreds and are always willing to make more. Michelle says, “In college, there is a lot more-free time to spend, and while some kids spend this time in their rooms watching Netflix or playing X-Box, I think that students should really take advantage of these opportunities.” There is no shame in binging a show on Netflix, but there are only so many episodes of The Office to watch. Finding a healthy balance between alone time, socializing, and partaking in on-campus opportunities and events is an equation for success. Clubs are also a great way to make new friends with common interests so why not put yourself out there? Truthfully, there is probably a The Office club that is looking for new members to talk about Stanley’s love for “Pretzel Day.”
Being away from home for a long period of time and feeling pressure to make new friends is not pleasant, but these are some of the problems that Michelle faces continually. A self-proclaimed introvert, she became quickly aware of the change in dynamic from her small town to her big university. She says, “All of my roommates came from larger high schools, having 300-400 kids in their grade. This meant that they probably did not know all of the students in their graduating class, whereas, growing up in Park Ridge, you knew the same kids in high school that you did in elementary school and saw them almost every day.” With this in mind, how easy is it really for a Park Ridge student to cope with this large difference? Michelle notes that it is important for graduates to mentally leave their comfort zone in order to become more quickly acclimated to the new atmosphere. Sure, some people have a natural talent to be outgoing and easily make friends, but she found her sheltered personality was a disadvantage in this case. Another tidbit of advice, she says, “…college is a new environment for everyone, where no one knows each other, so don’t be afraid to start over.” Don’t worry, nobody will remember that one time you tripped going up the stairs. But on a serious note, a fresh start is rare. You now have the chance to rediscover and explore new parts of your identity that Park Ridge did not foster.
As a senior in high school, it is hard for me to believe that in less than a year’s time, I will be finishing the first finals of my college days. I daydream over the newfound independence and experiences I will soon gain. However, I have not spent much time thinking about the area, friends, and family that I will soon leave behind. It easy to take what we have for granted as New Jersians, like fresh bagels, our cars, and being minutes away from New York City. Michelle puts it simply: “College is what you make of it.”
As graduates, we will become accustomed to new cuisine, public transportation, and different surrounding cities. It would be a crime to not embrace this new chapter of our lives and make a life fit to us specifically. We may be too old to stay in the nest which we have called our home for so long. Nevertheless, we know that with open arms, the Park Ridge community will welcome us on our seasonal migration home.