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Making matric work amidst a contagion of apathy



Matriculants have had to adapt to an ever-changing learning environment in a pandemic, and for many students, it hasn’t been easy. United Herzlia School graduate Dylan Friedman was one student who not only survived but thrived in these circumstances.

“Maintaining a good work ethic in online school was my biggest challenge,” he says. “My teachers understood the importance of the matric year, and made themselves available with a genuine interest in helping me.”

Amidst all this, he also headed up his school’s culture portfolio, but faced apathy from classmates in taking part in new offerings. But he never gave up, and managed to turn the situation around.

“Coming back to physical school felt different at first. Students were used to being online, so there wasn’t as much school passion as there used to be. This posed a challenge,” says Friedman. “The biggest challenge, besides the workload, was to gain their attention and interest.

“I was elected onto the Student Leadership Council as the head of the culture portfolio with two goals,” he says. “The first was to create a culture website for students to publish personal content, whether it was music videos, blogs, creative essays, and so on.

“The second was to create a cultural space underneath the high school stage where students could express themselves, host events, and pursue their interests. Students were happy to have a space dedicated to them, and I was fortunate to see how it was used. For example, they created a three-part podcast interviewing musicians at Herzlia.” He’s thrilled to have started something that he hopes will grow in the years to come.

He and his fellow culture committee heads, Benji Anstey and Gabriel Sieff, worked as a team.

“Such an amazing team inspired me to work harder and accomplish my goals,” Friedman says. “After we created the culture website, we held a photography competition to engage students and collect material for the site. This was when I first ran into the infamous apathetic attitude of high schoolers – my sympathies go out to the teachers,” he quips. “I found the most effective way to get participation was to create a simple system with as few steps as possible. For example: just scan the QR code on our poster, and enter your picture.”

He believes matric offered him a great deal of opportunity and independence, and a chance to pursue his passions. “I’ve always cared for the environment, so I thought that a beach clean-up would be the perfect opportunity to bring awareness to fellow students. This, in turn, inspired me to be more involved in volunteer work, leading me to the organisation Fallen Angels, where we organised a dog adoption day to help raise funds and find homes for puppies.”

His favourite subjects in matric were IT, physics, and maths, and he even managed to fit in his hobbies of surfing and drumming amid everything else.

“My advice to future matrics is to take the opportunities given to you because your matric year comes only once and it has so much to offer,” he says. “I plan to study a Bachelor of Science at the University of Cape Town as well as continue drumming and music. In the future, I hope to be doing what makes me happy, and right now, that’s drumming and surfing. I dream of creating something that I’m proud of that has a positive impact on people.”

Says Friedman, “I managed to fit my passions into school life by using the effective time-management skills that the learning centre assisted me with. The school was always supportive and encouraging. I was fortunate to have such amazing teachers and support structures.”

He jokes, “Looking back, I can happily say that I didn’t catch a case of apathy. In such a contagious time don’t let others’ apathy contaminate you!”

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