Originally created 05/18/99

Cliquing on

Jumping up and down and kicking her feet out in front of her, Jessica Miller demonstrates the ska dancing that she and her friends practice in the privacy of the girls' bathroom at Greenbrier High School.

"They're too shy. They'll only do it in the bathroom," she says. "Me, I don't care."

Jessica, a 15-year-old freshman wearing a slouchy black T-shirt, baggy jeans and a collection of about 10 necklaces, is part of a group she says other students call "the freaks."

"I guess it's because of the way we dress," she says, noting that her wardrobe consists of "black, black, black, red and jewelry."

Since the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado last month, high school cliques have been under the scrutiny of teachers, administrators, parents and the media. Witnesses said the gunmen, sick of being picked on by the school's popular students, targeted jocks in their rampage.

Cliques are as old as high school. But students at Greenbrier say it's just about finding people who share your interests, people you feel comfortable around and with whom you can be yourself.

Lauren Hilley, an 18-year-old senior, says most of her friends are teammates from the basketball and volleyball teams.

"I don't know that it's really a clique. We just hang out together," she says. "If somebody wanted to be with us, they could. It's not really a set apart group."

"Clique is a funny word to use," says junior Michael Hicks, 17. "People just try to choose friends because of who they are and if they have common interests. They pick their friends to match their personality and the way they see themselves. You see people hang out, like people in sports hang out with their teammates, and other people hang out with each other because they have common interests."

Michael, who plays football and basketball, says other people might consider him a jock.

"But I don't see myself as being in a group. I mingle and try to talk to everybody," he says.

Preppy seems to be the prevailing fashion in this suburban high school -- many of the students look as though they've stepped from the pages of an Eddie Bauer catalog. But even within the larger distinctions -- preps, jocks, freaks -- there are smaller groups, says senior Jonathan Brown, 18.

Territory is important.

"In the hallway we have certain people that we stand with, and sometimes we don't associate with some of the others," says junior Karen Avery, 16. "And sometimes we do, but everybody's like with whoever they want to hang with."

One group of students has claimed the wall in front of the main office.

"Before school and in between every class period they stand in front of the office on the wall. They don't like when certain people come and try to stand in their area, and they'll tell them they've got to move," Karen said. "They're just like big, tough, macho guys.

In the cafeteria, everyone always sits in the same place, the students say.

"We have our little section where we always sit," Jessica says. It's at the end of a nearly empty table, in the middle section of the lunchroom. If her group decided to sit somewhere else, she said, "we'd probably get yelled at."

Some students pick on others, but most say they just keep to themselves and their friends.

"People pick on me all the time, but I don't care," says sophomore Brandy McCollough, 15, who is friends with Jessica and dresses in Goth style -- dark colors, heavy makeup, lots of jewelry, with a medieval flair. The way she dresses and the music she listens to -- "everything except what's on Y-105" -- set her apart from most of the students.

Even as different as they seem on the outside, many of these students enjoy doing the same things in their free time.

"I row every afternoon, and on weekends my friends -- boys and girls, mostly all 10th-graders -- we'll go out to the movies, go out to eat, or go to someone's house," said sophomore Katie Paulos.

Brandy and Jessica and their friend Heather Redd, a 17-year-old sophomore, say they like going to concerts, driving around, eating pizza and renting movies.

"If there's nothing going on that weekend, I'll stay in and rent movies," Michael said. "Otherwise I just hang out with the guys."

Lauren says when she's not hanging out with her teammates she's with friends from church.

When it comes down to it, high school cliques are really just a way to find somewhere to fit in -- finding people like you, who like you for who you are.

"I'm happy with my friends," Jessica says. "They accept me the way I am and don't try to change me."

Emily Sollie covers teen issues. She can be reached at (706) 823-3340 or esollie@augustachronicle.com.


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