Mentoring: the time for students to sleep in, work on their homework, make lunch, or actually participate in activities. If you participated in a recent activity like I did, then you spoke about Graded culture and what it means to be a student at Graded. Though complex, a clear theme about Graded culture that surfaced repeatedly was opportunities. Opportunities to meet incredible people. Opportunities to learn and help others, or opportunities wasted for wanting to fit in.
While incredibly enriching, the diversity at Graded often comes at the cost of grades being very strictly split between Brazilians and foreigners. It’s rare to see young Brazilians intermingle with foreigners, or vice versa, in class, the hallways, or outside Graded. Some after-school clubs and activities manage to unite these seemingly opposite groups but such friendships don’t always go beyond the field or the debate podium– that is, until you get into the IB. In an almost inexplicable way, being an IB student makes this gap simply disappear. The people who you didn’t even say good morning to in 9th grade are now the people you eat with at lunch, and the person you thought hated you becomes your study buddy for your HL class. But what is it about being an IB student that creates a paradigm shift in Graded culture as you have known it?
For Senior Sam Bowles, this shift comes from maturing as one progresses through high school. Sam recognizes it’s “easy to look for people that are similar to you” when you’re in 9th or 10th grade but as you get into 11th and 12th, “you look for friends that have the same interests.” For Luc Dodge Terra, a new student at Graded during the pandemic, video games provided a platform for him to “make friends online” because everyone had the common interest of “connecting online, playing and [talking] to each other.” Junior Gabriel Makdesi adds that video games often “need more people to make [them] more fun” so the people who connected, predominantly boys, met loads of new friends that they may have otherwise never thought to talk to.
11th grader Karen Yumiketa points out that the IB curriculum itself brings forth this shift. “It exposes you to people outside your friend group” because not all your friends take the same classes as you. When students are given the opportunity to relate to others with the same interest in history or physics, they are more likely to expand their friendships – even if it’s accidentally so. The workload, stress, highs and lows are all shared with the people in your classes regardless of previously established friendships. This bond through the IB allows students to know each other better and can subsequently lead to friendships. Senior Margaux Hollard says this shift happens naturally and though before it “felt weird if groups mixed together” as you grow older and “feel that everything is coming to an end with college acceptances”, it just feels right to branch out. Maria Clara Quiroga, a soon-to-be Senior, adds that as a freshman or sophomore, it “really matters who you do or don’t sit at lunch with” which can prevent people from branching out. However, when Senior year comes around, everyone is more mature and is the year that “everyone enjoys the most” because people have “bonded across groups.” “It’s not all or nothing”, as Sam put it. You can be a part of multiple groups and “take the parts of each group that you like the most and weld them into something unique.” Margaux even goes so far as to say that when you hang out with other people more often and less with your previously-established friends, “it doesn’t mean you lose friends– you never really lose friends.”
Lifer Anna Azevedo summarizes it pretty nicely, saying “everyone notices the similarities regardless of previous friendships” which ultimately allows people to meet new people and open up their friend group. While Anna is happy that everyone is so bonded as Seniors, she wouldn’t change a thing about the process though. She does not see the time in 9th and 10th grade being closed off to others as a waste of time, but rather as a chance to gain some “knowledge about who you are, who you wanna be and who you wanna be around.” On the other hand, Maria Clara thinks the division within grades is silly and that so much precious time could be spent with people you resonate with more if people “just don’t care” about what others think of them. Though these two perspectives disagree, they converge in that they both agree Senior year brings a wonderful refreshment of new friendships.
But what to do? You’re in 9th or 10th grade, you’re reading this and nodding your head but thinking, “how can I actually do this – the whole branching out thing?” Naty Choo has you covered. At least one answer is right in front of you: “mentoring”. As crazy as it may sound to some, participating in the weekly meetings you’re supposed to attend anyways actually “forces you to interact with other people which gives you the opportunity to reach out without actually changing much about your current friend groups.” It’s hard to feasibly expand your friend group from one day to the next, especially if not everyone is in tune to this shift. However, everyone is included in mentoring and no one can pick who is or isn’t in their group. Therefore, mentoring provides a small opportunity for students to test out this theory. Maybe there are cooler people outside of your friend group, maybe it’s worth getting to know them, and maybe it’s all part of the process, or you can just cut to the chase and branch out now. All I know is that my mentoring group is special, and I wish I had appreciated it just a little sooner.