How Long Do Middle School Friendships Last?

two middle school boys smiling and pointing at one another

It’s my first day of middle school and I am surrounded by strangers. I recognize an old classmate or two from elementary school, but thanks to the alphabetized seating, they are estranged to distant corners of the classroom. Nervously, I look around for a friendly face. A girl to the left of me notices my earnest searching. I smile and she promptly turns her head to discourage any conversation. I don’t have any better luck to my right. Then the boy in front of me turns around. He introduces himself as Craig Lenti. Who knew so much could depend on the first letter of your last name?  He asks me if I like Indiana Jones or Han Solo better?  I glance down at his shirt to see Harrison Ford’s face smirking back at me.

“Indiana Jones,” I answer confidently.

“Good answer,” he offers back smiling and I know instantly I’ve made a friend. What I didn’t know at the time was how long that middle school friendship would last. Craig and I would geek out on movies for many years. We would suffer through gym together, get in trouble for talking in class, have all weekend sleepovers, and even the occasional fight.  Our friendship shaped a lot my views of the world and how I still relate to my peers today. No one really knows how long middle school friendships will last, but we do know they will likely stay with us for a long time.

The Power of Middle School Friendships

In her Atlantic article, Lydia Denworth talks about the power of middle school friendships.  She recognizes the long lasting influence these relationships have on the rest of the students’ lives.  At Arthur Morgan School, we see evidence of this assertion all the time. Attend one of the school’s five year reunions and you will see scores of middle school friendships that have endured the test of time, some of them over 50 years.

Tessa, Gressa, and Ariel as middle schoolers posing and smilingRecently, I interviewed an AMS alumna, Gressa Cedergren, about her middle school friendships. Gressa, Tessa Aguar, and Ariel Lindeman formed deep bonds while attending AMS.  Ten years later, they still make life decisions based on those friendships. Gressa recently moved to Berlin, partly because her friend Tessa was there.  All three have remained close, and although the nature of their relationships have evolved, the influence that middle school had on them still remains. Gressa answered my questions with input from Tessa. (Ariel helped them in spirit!)

How did AMS influence your friendship? 

Personally, I carry an openness and an acceptance of how I notice people around me changing with time. AMS taught me how to get to know a person’s core, and how to look past the phase they’re going through and really get to know the person

AMS comes up in conversation a lot with others, especially when we’re together. It’s something that we are proud to share with people, and I would say it’s a clear part of our identity as friends. The open-heart acceptance that I have of others’ quirks and personal struggles is something that AMS gifted me. It’s a quality of relating to and understanding people which connects us as friends with a kind of deeper, golden thread. 

What is it like to have gone through that awkward middle school stage and now know each other as adults?

Comforting. That’s the first word that comes to my mind. Both Tessa and Ariel have seen me at my strangest, and somehow they’re still my friends. That’s a miracle. 

We find ourselves talking about change and growth regularly, noticing how each other has developed over the years. It’s really special that we are able to look back nearly ten years ago and see how much has progressed for us personally and relationally as friends. So many variables have changed the way we exist in this world since AMS, yet the passion we all identify with, and the appreciation that we have for others and for the earth are parts of our core that solidified within the AMS community. I’m proud to call these inspiring women my friends, and am so grateful to continue to witness them (and myself) grow up. 

Tessa, Gressa, and Ariel as middle schoolers readingWhat has changed in your friendship? What remains the same?

I think overall the dynamic of our relationship with each other has pretty much stayed the same. What has changed has only been for the best; and that is our growing maturity, our communication with each other, and our evolving abilities to resolve conflicts with each other when they arise – and of course they do as is the nature of long term human connection. 

As we have all lived in different places and been part of separate communities over the years, it has been really interesting to learn about each other and who the others are outside of our friendship with one another. I think this fact alone has changed our relationships, if only to teach us more about each other and ourselves as individuals. Our completely silly, footloose attitudes and openness for new and sometimes odd experiences is something that certainly hasn’t changed since AMS.

What do each of you carry forward  from your time together in middle school? 

I would say that the essence of our relationships with each other hasn’t changed much if at all. I think we all feel a sense of ease with each other that just comes with having witnessed each other’s vulnerable adolescent phases; and I would say also that having grown through the intimate experience that AMS provides together, that really strips you down to who you are. AMS provides such a safe and encouraging space for adolescents to try to start figuring out who they are. I mean that time in your life is really when you start asking all those big questions, about who you are and how you fit into the world that was given to you.

I think it shows a lot even that all three of us have a strong bond with each other even though there were a few years here and there when we each were off doing our own thing and riding different wavelengths. The bond that AMS fostered for us holds us together no matter where we are. 


– by Nicholas Maldonado with thanks to Gressa Cedergren, Tessa Aguar and Ariel Lindeman