What makes a Commonwealth student tick? From the classes that capture their attention to their favorite books, foods, and even paradoxes, their interests are hampered only by their imaginations—and, perhaps, the hours in a day.
Olivia Wang '24 took a running start into her first year at Commonwealth, attending admissions events and later our Summer Enrichment Program. Now, as a full-fledged freshman, she's already been involved in Math Team, recreational running, our literary magazine, the student newspaper, and, of course, Evil Genius Club. Keep reading to learn more about her.
Getting to Know You
What is bringing joy right now?
In the mornings, I like to look out the window next to my bed--all the leaves are turning orange and yellow; it's such a small thing that's easy to miss in day-to-day living, but it's so pretty to see. Also, my mom makes really good food! (She just made scallion pancakes.)
What are you doing to recharge?
In the summer I would read. Right now, I mostly listen to music—indie, pop, rock, folk, classical, and Broadway/musical theatre stuff. Anaïs Mitchell is amazing.
What's your favorite book/book you've re-read?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, no question.
What is your favorite class?
City of Boston is really cool. More so than other classes it takes a discussion format, which works, even over Zoom. [This year] it's a shame that we don't get to go to places in the city, but we still try to see places over Google Maps. And I just think it's really cool how we can talk about and explore topics. And there isn't one right or wrong answer.
What's your favorite comfort food?
Anything chocolate really.
Pen or pencil?
Pen; it doesn't smudge or fade away like pencil marks do.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What was the Summer Enrichment program like?
I was part of the math program (Adventures in Math with Mr. Al Letarte) thrice a week for a few weeks. Every day we did a variety of problems, mostly taken from old math competitions. It wasn't calculus level--it was actually geared so that anyone with a background in Algebra 1 (if my memory serves me well) would be able to solve the problems, so you didn't necessarily need a lot of background information to do the work. It was more focused on problem solving, and applying what you know in creative ways. It was really fun seeing interesting ways to solve problems or even different ways to see the same problem--there might be a faster or a simpler way to do it.
How has Commonwealth compared to your expectations?
Well, honestly, after I was accepted and before I started going here, I was kind of nervous. It was like, What if they all know what they're doing and I don't? Or what if everybody doesn't like me? But it's not been like that at all!
Everyone I've met is really nice and welcoming. We're all in the same boat, starting school during COVID. It's hard not being able to see some or all of your classmates, but still we're all here in whatever capacity possible to help each other out, have fun, and learn.
All the other ninth graders I've talked to have their own interests, and it's really cool to hear them talk about their experiences and what they're passionate about--things I may not know anything about. Things I didn't know high schoolers could do.
Plus, classes have been absolutely amazing. The teachers here really care about what they're teaching, and that makes all the difference.
Also, the building itself is just so pretty inside! There's so many little details everywhere, and also Mr. Wharton's office is just stunning.
Why did you choose Commonwealth?
Everyone at Commonwealth seemed very welcoming when I came for the visits and some other such events. I remember the open house where a few students gave speeches, and I was really impressed by, first of all, how well they spoke and how confident they were up there. One of the speakers focused on creative writing in her speech, which is something that interests me. In that moment, I felt like: Oh, I could see myself here.
What has the hybrid learning experience been like thus far?
Right now there are two groups, and each group goes to school in person for one week, and then the next week they are online while the other group goes in. And of course, there's some kids who are all online. We have classes with peers both in-person and online.
Overall, I think it's going pretty well, considering everything that's going on. It's not ideal--but there are pros and cons to being there and not being there. For example, when you're in person, you get to have Heather's amazing food, and you get to talk with other classmates more--there's more spontaneous interaction. On the other hand, if you're not there, you can sleep in a few more hours. You have a lot of fun either way.
What has your extracurricular experience been like thus far?
For school clubs, I'm editing for the newspaper and Helicon, the literary magazine. And I am also on the Math Team. I did recreational running for a sport. And, oh, Evil Genius Club...
How might incoming students make the most of their freshman year?
Try a bunch of different activities! Since freshman year is pass/fail, you do not need to stress that much about your grades. Of course, you want to learn and you want to set good studying habits. You don't want to procrastinate or not sleep. But you also, again, don't need to let your grades stress you out that much. Meet new people! Find things you're interested in pursuing!