By Callia Peterson, ’22.

Belonging is vital to our well-being, and yet, it is often overlooked—until it isn’t there anymore. The butterflies and discomfort of its absence can be found when you walk into a room full of strangers or don’t know where you are in an unfamiliar building, or when you move to a new state and start sophomore year at a new school alone. But you are never alone. There is always someone who can be a friend, a mentor, a confidant, a teammate, a lunch date—even if you don’t know them yet.

We are entering, once again, a year of transition. We have and will get lost in the halls of our beautiful new high school building, and we will be comforted by the fact that all of the other students, teachers, administrators and faculty that surround us are lost too. For the first time in decades, transfer students and freshmen will be in the same shoes as the most seasoned seniors. When you get lost, make sure you pull out this copy of Arlingtonian for an informative map created by our graphics team. If you’re not a map person, flag down someone wearing a black Student Mentors t-shirt. They will lend a helping hand.

This is the first year that I don’t feel like the new kid. My freshman year, I was in the company of a sea of new kids. Sophomore year, I started over at a new high school. Last year, the pandemic made everything feel new again. But this year, despite the new environment, does not feel new. It isn’t because I’ve lived in Upper Arlington for over two years now or because I’ve gotten the hang of the UA school system. It is because of the people that surround me. It is the passionate teachers, thoughtful mentors, inquisitive classmates and new friends that bring me a sense of belonging.

So go out and meet new people in those rooms full of strangers. Introduce your pronouns and be thoughtful about getting others’ pronouns right each time you see them. Say hello and their name. Invite the person sitting alone at lunch to join your table and later join you at a football game. Open your mind and uncover your biases. Find spaces where you can create change, be inclusive and lead in your community. Find your people and read Arlingtonian— our reporters will keep you informed. Stop by Ms. Mollica’s second period for new friends or to pitch an idea for the magazine. All are welcome and no one is alone.