The “Vibe and Tribe” series focuses on on examining social divisions, hierarchies, labels, stigmas, and comfort zones among America’s youth– specifically the students of Leesville Road High School. In the first installment, we introduced three students at Leesville: Mariah Kern, Matt Cash, and Rahul Subramanian. The students described their individual friend groups and social niches. They also explored their own biases, personal motives, and comfort zones.
Five weeks into second semester, we decided to meet with the students once again for an update on how their friends and niches have or have not changed.
“In two of my classes, we were the only three black girls. Now, I’m in like, this class [gym], there’s more black kids, white kids, and Hispanic kids, all mixed together,” said Mariah Kern, a freshman of color. “I feel more comfortable [second semester], because now that I’ve experienced more, I know the gist of high school, and I can talk to more people now that I’m out of my shell.”
First semester, Kern took honors Paideia class with teachers Eric Broer and Paul Dinkenor. In the two-period class, Kern was among three black female students. She’d explained that while she’d socialized with and befriended the white students in her class, she and the other black students tended to gravitate towards each other. Her friend group outside the class was predominantly black as well.
Kern told me that her friend group hadn’t really been influenced by the introduction of new people and new classes in second semester. However, she does not believe her friend group will remain constant over the next three and a half years. “Even now, me and Danielle [another black student in last semester’s Paideia class] don’t really see each other anymore,” said Kern. “I feel like the classes that you’re in really influence how much you hang out with somebody, because if you’re like, in classes with that person that semester you see each other every single day. And now that we’re not having classes, I rarely see her — only in the hallways.”
Kern takes it upon herself to make new friends in her classes and around school. “If I see someone sitting there, I’ll be like, ‘Hey! I’m Mariah, what’s your name?’ And we’ll just get to talk and that’s when I’ll see if I really wanna be their friend or not, or if we should just stay associates.”
Kern’s willingness to make the first move when it comes to socializing and making friends is a trait that not everyone possesses.
Matt Cash, one of the white freshman from last semester’s Paideia class, prefers to keep to himself. “In my classes I don’t talk that much… I mean, I guess I’ve made friends, but not people that I’d hang out with outside of school and stuff like that. I don’t know, I just, I don’t do that.”
Cash’s friend group consists of people he’s known since elementary and middle school. He believes their strong bond stemmed from time and familiarity. However, he is doubtful that their friendship will remain equally strong as time goes by. “I think it is realistic [that we’ll stay friends], but we’re probably not gonna hang out as much… we’re gonna all wanna be successful, get into good colleges and stuff like that, so as the years go by, we’re gonna become a little more busy with more difficult classes and whatnot. We’ll probably stay friends throughout all of high school, just, we won’t hang out as much,” said Cash.
He believes that classes and opportunity play a key role in the formation and sustainability of friend groups. He doesn’t think school plays a big role in who you’re friends with, but it affects the strength of your friendship. “Basically, given an hour of lunch, you’re given the opportunity to hang out with whoever you want, so, you’re allowed to pick who your friends are because you’re allowed to meet with different friends,” said Cash.
But, given that high school is a time in your life when you need to do a lot of important things to make sure that you have a much better, successful life, it does limit how much you can hang out with your friends.”
Cash and his friends all share a common interest– longboarding. When they hang out, they tend to go outside and longboard together, or engage in other outdoor activities. However, second semester, he and his friends have found it more difficult to coordinate time to spend together. “We’re just busier in general and with our classes this semester. Also, when it’s colder outside, like first semester was kind of when it was better weather, so we’d hang out outside a lot more after school, but now it’s like, a lot colder. We’re not really hanging out because the weather’s not that great.”
Sports and outdoor activities evidently play a large role in the formation and development of high schoolers’ friendships and friend groups. Rahul Subramanian has spent the past three years on Leesville’s men’s’ tennis team, and his senior year will be no exception.
“[My friend group within the tennis team] has changed a lot now because I’m a senior, so now I’m the oldest one and I’m not friends with the people who are older than me anymore,” said Subramanian. However, his age does not prevent him from socializing with other students on the team. “There are two freshman who made varsity, who I really like a lot.”
Subramanian’s sociability and friendliness extends to his classmates, too. “In my new semester, I’ve made a lot of friends in every single one of my classes…. Since we’re all in the same class, we just have stuff to relate to, and most of my classes are full of seniors so I already know them… they’re all funny, and they like me.”
According to Subramanian, his friend group remained fairly constant throughout the past three and a half years. “The drama and everything that came with it, since we all went through so much together, we just stuck together,” said Subramanian. However, he doesn’t believe his situation is very common. “Friends do separate… they grow out of each other.”
The three students will continue to grow and change as time goes on. Stay tuned for the next installment of Vibe and Tribe.