Getting on her level


Will Rives

photo by Will Rives

Jack Matousek, features writer

A freshman walks through the double doors leading into the language hallway on the first day of school. Passing the classes full of her peers she walks straight to where the upperclassmen are streaming in the final room of the hallway. She grips the metal handle ready to learn not fazed about the work she’s about to walk into. She opens the door and is shocked, by how the atmosphere has completely changed the older students were so calm and collected.  Helena Verbrugge repeated this process three more times that day going to classes AP Physics and Honors Precalculus.

“This is supposed to be my level,” Verbrugge, who grew up in Denmark until age 10, said. “This is me. For me, Precalculus is like other people’s Geometry.”

While she said she was intimidated by the upperclassmen and the size of the school, nothing about what takes place in the classroom scares her. She embraces it with a passion for learning, soaking up everything she can. Due to her advanced schooling in Denmark she was able to jump into classes usually reserved for upperclassmen such as AP Physics and Spanish III. According to Verbrugge, school is not a something to pass the time, it’s a love.

“I know I really want to go into math and science,” Verbrugge said. “That’s my passion. I don’t think it’s necessarily something to be proud of, it is just who I am.”

She may seem advanced to others in her grade but to her science and math teachers, she’s right where she should be. After brief adjustments to her classmates and surroundings Verbrugge fits right in.

“I feel like AP Physics is a great place for her to be,” Julie Sutfin, AP Physics teacher said. “I think people that really excel in school need to have challenge. She definitely fits in my class.”

Verbrugge still feels a deep connection to where she spent a majority of her childhood. Missing the great relationships, that she said lasts a lifetime formed with friends while living in Denmark. Here she says she has many more friends and relationships but most are shallow, only a couple compare to her old relationships in Denmark.

“Once you make bonds in Denmark, it’s way deeper than you find in America,” Verbrugge said. “In Denmark I might’ve only had a few friends but of those few I was really close with all of them. I just remember being really happy. The bonds I made there are those of adults we still call, talk and catch up with each other.”

Verbrugge has fun with science and language too speaking 5 different languages. This is how growing up in Denmark surrounded by different people of different countries accelerated Verbrugge abilities to process and learn language. She also loves music, expressing this love of music by being in band while also in a jazz band offered as an extension of the band after school.

“I really love band.” Verbrugge said. “It is so fun. I know it’s not necessarily something I would want to go into because it’s not really my passion. It is just such a close-knit community.”

Many people may use their advantage in classes to focus solely on college claims Verbrugge. But Verbrugge is grounded in the moment enjoying her time in high school. Although her dream is going to study numbers and eventually a job filled with equations and experiments.

“I am not taking these high level classes because of college, I just really love them so much,” Verbrugge said. “They are so fun. I just love numbers.”

Being so high in the class and having many expectations levied against them many lead to someone letting that stress them out or go to their head. This does not describe Helena according to friend and classmate Addison Schrader.

“She talks about her classes here and there, she never brags and is very humble about it,” Schrader said.

Surrounded by older students who are trying to finish up their high school careers and looking at colleges, Helena keeps the same optimistic outlook. Trying not to get too ahead of herself and staying grounded in the moment trying to take in an enjoy each class for what they are.

“What I love about Helena is she doesn’t try to be a senior.” Sutfin said. “She’s really fun and light-hearted like a freshman. With almost all seniors in her class she maintains her freshman outlook which is hard to do when everyone around you is so serious.”

Even when surrounded by upperclassmen, Helena is comfortable with who she is  around and is confident in what she’s doing according to Sutfin. Even challenging her classmates when doing group activities in class sharing her thoughts and opinions said Sutfin.

“She will volunteer, speak up, and ask questions which someone who is intimidated by the other kids wouldn’t do.” Sutfin, said. “She definitely has opinions. We were doing a lab recently and she definitely had an opinion on how run that lab, she was leading in that situation.”

“She’s made friends in the past few weeks so now I think she’s really comfortable,” Kathleen Becker, PreCalculus teacher said.

Asking questions and always being, involved Verbrugge never shies away from getting the help she needs. Most of the time though Verbrugge gets her best learning moments from teaching says Becker, emerging as a leader to those around her class.

“She walks around the room and she’s really up to speed on what we are doing so she’ll help others by going to the white board and help teach other students.” Becker, said. “Kids will ask her questions that are sometimes over me.”