Junior Mindy Chau steps into her first period class, taking a seat at her desk right before the bell rings. On a day like this four years ago, she would still be lingering around in her pajamas working on an online assignment.
From seventh to eighth grade, Chau was enrolled in an online school, all lessons accessible from her laptop. She made this switch to distance herself from a negative environment, deeming it necessary for her own benefit.
“I mostly joined online school to get a breather and a new environment,” Chau said. “My parents didn’t want a chance of me going back to the unwelcoming atmosphere in middle school.”
Despite her attempt to surround herself with more positive people, Chau’s online schooling worsened her discomfort in social situations. Her schooling held optional church meetings to socialize with other online school students, but she struggled to make friends, causing her to become depressed.
“I couldn’t trust anyone and I hated being around people,” Chau said. “I tried to remember how to laugh, tried to forget everything that hurt me. It was honestly really hard, so I just gave up and resorted to constantly hiding in the bathroom every time I had to stay at the meetups.”
Chau’s parents, especially her dad, were understanding of her difficulties in social situations and made an effort to support her.
“My dad understood and often took me with him to get coffee or hot chocolate, or read in the nearby library, until the meet up ended,” Chau said. “On a few days, he insisted I try to socialize and left me at the church.”
Regardless of the tremendous obstacles that came with online schooling, several perks stood out. Chau enjoyed the freedom of waking up at any time and working on assignments without a certain due date, which helped alleviate her stress.
“I did different amounts of work as my mood felt like it,” Chau said. “It was a nice sort of freedom compared to traditional schools: sleeping and waking up when I pleased and no heavy pressure from tests or projects.”
After heavy contemplation and having mixed feelings about online schooling, she decided to switch to SGHS after eighth grade and has been attending public school ever since. With this decision, Chau became more sociable after meeting and interacting with new people.
“I probably never would have changed and would have stayed quiet if it weren’t for my friend Wendy,” Chau said. “She is such an amazing and strong girl who stretched her hand out to me freshman year, accepted me, and drew me into her group. A large part of me now is all because of her, and I owe her so much for that.”
Chau does not regret her choice of resuming public school, as she has become happier after finding an accepting community.
“While I’ve met one bad apple, I’ve met so many wonderful people in my years here who reminded me of what there is to love about life,” Chau said. “They showed me how to smile again.”