‘Jewels of the Knight’ provides support system for freshman girls


Martiecita Inverno

English teacher Marie DeAngelis created the “jewels of the KNight” club with administrator Crystal Perry-Holden.

Martiecita Inverno, Correspondent

What’s the deal with freshman girls?

Just kidding– sort of.

We all remember our freshman year. That awkward phase of having just gone from being top of the food chain in middle school, and then straight to the bottom of a brand new one after three measly months. It’s a weird balance of trying to adjust to new classes, a huge campus, and practically triple the number of people in your school.

Those friends who had been in your class for the past eight years were suddenly spread so thinly across the nine-floor torture chamber that was high school, you were lucky if you walked by three people you even recognized during the day. Your classes were full of people you’d never met before. Lunch was a special hell of its own.

Everything was different.

Everyone had their own share of obstacles to overcome, but to girls, it was something different.

To girls, it was your best friend from last year starting to dress differently and wear makeup, and ask why you didn’t do the same. The boys you hung out with in middle school becoming suddenly intolerable. Everyone around you making it their mission to find themselves a boyfriend or girlfriend.

You wonder if you should reinvent yourself, stay stagnant in your friend group, or if you should do something new– be you by yourself. You cut off your old friends, and for maybe a day, think it was the right decision. By your second solitary lunch, you realize there’s no one in your corner. Everything is so big right now.

You might spew a few hateful words toward the girls who made you feel like whatever you were doing with yourself was wrong. You make it your mission to find new friends. You tell yourself that they’ll be people who accept you for who you are, but high school is nothing if not a status competition. You become friends with the people you can, and find that most of your past standards start to slip away.

Chances are, you have nothing in common with them. You’d never heard of the singers or TV shows they talk about. You honestly weren’t even sure what they did talk about half of the time. It was usually about each other. It wasn’t hard to see that none of them particularly liked one another.

To fit in with them, you decide to try wearing clothes that you think they’ll like and trying that one lip gloss they all love and watching that one movie they reference constantly. You know in the back of your mind that this is exactly the kind of thing you planned to avoid, but you also know what it feels like to not fit in with your friends. You might not like them very much, but you’d rather change a few things about your appearance than be totally alone again.

It turns out that it’s not just your looks that you change. Over time, you start to become more and more like them and less and less like yourself. You were smart before, but that wasn’t cool to your new friends. You’d never skipped a class before, but when they texted you in the middle of third period asking if you wanted to go get pizza, how could you say no? You raised your hand and asked for a pass to the nurse– your “head hurt” and you’d be “bringing your stuff because you didn’t know if it would take the rest of the period.”

By the end of the year, three girls had left the group because none of the members who were still standing had “ever really liked her, anyways” and “had a feeling about her the whole time.” You had 25 absences and needed to repeat Health 1. You tell yourself that next year, it’ll be different. You know if you just hang out with someone new, it’ll fix itself. You probably won’t have a ton of classes with any of them, and you’d seen first hand how easy it was to ghost someone.

Sophomore year rolls around and they find you on the first day of school. Why didn’t you hang out over the summer? Do you have second wave lunch on A-days? Because four of them do, too, and they wanted to know if you’d sit with them? You notice as you fall right back into this groove that you were in the year prior. It was just so difficult finding new friends before; what could possibly be the harm in staying with them?

This situation is a common phenomenon that freshman administrator Mrs. Perry-Holden took notice of and decided to do something about, with the brand new Jewels of the Knight club.

“I’d say if I have to put it in one word: sisterhood.” The Jewels of the Knight is a club run by administrator Crystal Perry-Holden and 9th-grade English teacher, Marie DeAngelis, whose main purpose is to help the girls falling down this rabbit hole “push themselves to succeed” and “not fall in a trap of mediocrity”.

The club, at this point, is a recruitment based process only open to ninth grade girls. In the years coming, it will be available to the new classes of students. The plan, Perry-Holden says, is to “grow with it.”

The girls chosen for it this year were picked after Perry-Holden carefully looked through the grades, attendance, discipline referrals, and so on, of every girl currently in the ninth grade. This year’s recruits received letters explaining the club to them and they had to have their parents sign off on them. “Some have straight A’s, some may have two F’s, some may have a little bit of an attendance issue. Some are just, like, in the middle of the road: they haven’t gotten suspended, they haven’t gotten in trouble.”  However, she added,  “it’s only a matter of time.”

The hope for Jewels of the Knight is to provide a safe space for girls to lean on each other, as opposed to being at each other’s throats. At a time as vulnerable as this, it is exceedingly important for girls to have a support system at their school. DeAngelis says she hopes that the club will give girls “someone to turn to in the school.”

Of course, the school offers social workers for students to talk to, which is definitely still encouraged, but something about having someone to talk to that knows what exactly you’re going through because they’re experiencing it, too, in real time is incomparable. Knowing that you do have people in your corner who might be in your classes, or who you may pass in the halls on a daily basis is a whole other kind of help.

When asked if the club will expand from just girls in the future, both DeAngelis and Perry-Holden confirmed the possibility of, in the future, there being some sort of equivalent for boys. Perry-Holden said that for now, however, that she feels like “there’s a need for girls to feel a sense of empowerment, student leadership, self-esteem, and pride, and confidence.”