New Pioneers, not just freshmen

Kylie Punke, Reporter

The end of the semester is almost here, and while seniors are anticipating their graduation, freshmen are just starting to get used to a new life. Twins Tatum and Avery Aeilts [pronounced Isles] are just happy to be joining their brother.

“My brother Deagan also goes [to U-High], and [he] really influenced me to come here. The people are a lot nicer here, too,” T. Aeilts said.

Originally from Lincoln, just 39 miles southwest of Bloomington-Normal, the Aeilts twins make the 40-minute drive to school everyday.

“It’s far away from Lincoln, and we can have new experiences,” T. Aeilts said. 

Both twins are involved with the dance team. A. Aeilts absolutely loves the people on the squad.

“I really like the people [on the dance team]. They are fun to be around,” A. Aeilts said.

Freshmen Tatum and Avery Aeilts travel 78 miles round trip daily to attend U-High.

Aeilts agrees with her sister T. Aeilts on one thing: they love the environment U-High provides, not just for their academics, but also for their activities, clubs and sports.

T.Aeilts also shared that she enjoys playing basketball. 

“The competitive nature of the people in the gym is pretty good. That’s what I like about basketball,” T. Aeilts said.

Coach Laura Sellers provides that competitive environment for all students who step in the gym who have an interest in playing basketball.

High school can be challenging because being in a new place with new people can be overwhelming, but so can the school work. 

“I’m adjusting pretty well, but find it hard to keep up with assignments sometimes,” A. Aeilts said. 

 Some of the Aeilts’ favorite teachers are Morgan Schmidt, Kayla Schahrer, and long term substitute Garret Roth. But freshman Alexi Punke favors Lin Lin, the mandarin teacher, and Jeff Wollenweber, the wellness teacher.

“I also like Mandarin, and Lin Lao Shi,” Punke said.

 One of Punke’s favorite parts of U-High is the football team. 

“I didn’t have a lot of friends in my classes to start with at the beginning of the year, but being on the football team has really helped me with making new friends,” Punke said. 

Not only does Punke like the classroom and the activities he is involved in, but he really fancies the many freedoms that come with being a Pioneer. Most high schools don’t allow their students to leave the building or use their phones in the classroom setting.

“Definitely being able to use your phone at the right time during class is really nice. Especially being able to go off campus for lunch or go home when you forget something that you need,” Punke said. ”I like being able to have these freedoms and this trust they give us.” 

Junior Molly Gardner, like the freshmen, is also getting used to U-High. 

“I moved here from Oswego East, it’s near Naperville,” Gardner said, “I moved down here and saw that they had applications for this school ,so I signed up and said ‘why not’?”

Gardner likes how different it is at U-High compared to Oswego East, specifically how small the school is compared to the suburbs of Chicago. Oswego East, just outside of Naperville and Plainfield, has a whopping 3000 kids, five times the number of students at U-High.

“My graduating class was 800,” Gardner said, “[With U-High] it’s very small.”

Garden said the food is also better here. 

“I like the food,” Gardner said, “[At Oswego East] we would get pizza every single day, and a wet chicken sandwich and that was it, nothing ever changed,”

Another thing that seems to turn a few heads is the grading system. Where traditional grading has a warm place in some students’ hearts, other students, like Gardner, really like the standards-based grading system.

“I like the grading system, because I never got retakes at my old school. Now I get them every class which is really nice,” Gardner said, “I also like that everyone is chill here. No one is mean or angry all the time.”

Gardner is involved in women’s tennis. 

A small school may not be the environment for everyone, but it certainly is for sophomore Percy Morgan (they/them), who came from Normal Community High School. Morgan was part of Orchesis, an intercity dance studio class that is no longer available. They ended up talking to their mom and applied.

“I told her that I really liked the people there [at U-High], and that I wouldn’t hate going there,” Morgan said, “And after that, she made me apply.”

Morgan said they also enjoy the difference in extracurricular activities.

“I’m in art club, choir, theater, creative writing, ” Morgan said, “They are all things that I enjoy, but they are more intimate. At Community, clubs that I went to were full of people because it’s such a big school. There’s a ton of people with similar interests and it felt like we didn’t really get anything done. Here, there’s more bonding with the members.”