Eighth-graders admitted to feeling nervous on their first day of middle school. High school seniors remember being uncertain about what to expect as freshmen.
These experienced students are now sharing lessons learned with rising sixth-graders and ninth-graders in transition programs hosted by the division’s secondary schools before the new school year. The programs are designed to orient students, as well as parents in many cases, to their respective new schools’ facilities, staff, activities, academics and schedules.
They also provide opportunities for students to meet new people and talk with their peers. This is key to a successful transition to middle and high school, according to the students who have been in their shoes.
“Talk with other students because all the other kids are going to be nervous, too,” said Chase, a Landstown Middle School eighth-grader helping with the school’s Lancer Launch transition program. “On the first day of school they are always quiet, so try to communicate with the kids and they are going to think you are the outgoing one.”
His classmate Bryan added, “There’s no reason to be nervous. It’s just, you’re going to a new school and you’re going to make new friends. On the first day, go talk to new people. Make new friends and you’ll get used to it eventually.”
Getting involved in school activities is a good way to meet new people, said Landstown eighth-grader Alaina.
“Don’t be afraid to do activities because they’re really fun and it’s a great way to make friends. It may not be like the first day of school that sixth graders have to get involved but throughout the school year,” she encouraged. “I made that mistake and didn’t do anything my first year of middle school, and I regret it.”
Landstown seventh-grader Josiah said he had fun last year as a sixth-grader and advises incoming sixth-graders to “enjoy the school year.” He also had advice about managing homework.
“I wrote it down in my planner and just knew what I had to do,” he said. “Then I did it right when I got home so I knew it was done for every class. It’s hard work, but it pays off in the end. It was a very fun year.”
Keeping focused on school work and grades and getting involved were also recommendations from high school upperclassmen.
“My advice to freshmen is to stay on top of their grades and get involved. Your grades really do matter freshmen year. It will break or make you for the rest of your high school years,” advised Kayla, a Green Run High School (GRHS) senior who helped welcome the Class of 2020 during the school’s 20/20 Vision freshman transition program.
“Most people don’t think it’s important,” Kayla continued. “‘It’s just freshmen year. I can make up for it later,’ they think. It will be so much harder to do that. It’s really important. I recommend getting advice and help from your teachers. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help, and it establishes a good relationship with your teachers so you get to know them better.”
Fellow GRHS senior Isaiah echoed the importance of grades and added, “But it’s also important that you have an outlet. You can’t think, ‘Oh, I’m only going to do school work. I live, eat, breathe school.’ That’s not going to work. You need an outlet. You need a way to express yourself, to use another type of energy and different side of your brain. It’s important so you can have balance and you manage your life.”
Isaiah’s outlet is track and kickboxing, something he took up almost a year ago. “I also like to dance,” he said.
Waiting for the 20/20 Vision opening session to begin in the gymnasium, GRHS seniors reflected on the biggest challenge of freshmen year.
“It’s definitely finding your place, but you have to learn to make your own place,” said Hannah. “A lot of them will just try to follow somebody else, but that’s not the right thing to do because that’s when you can get in a hole. Find your own place and make your own twist on things when you’re in high school.”
GRHS senior Jaylan appreciated the fresh start of her freshmen year.
“I feel like high school is like a restart button. So, how you were perceived in middle school, you’re able to recreate yourself in high school to what you want to be,” she said. “I feel like every new bridge you go to is like a re-creation stage. So, in high school you want to create a certain persona that isn’t to the norm. Be yourself. Be unique.”
A bridge to opportunity is how VBCPS Superintendent Aaron Spence described freshmen year in his welcoming remarks to GRHS ninth-graders at his alma mater.
“What do these green shirts say?” he asked the crowd. “20/20 Vision. What do you think that means? It doesn’t mean they have good eyesight. 20/20 Vision means you need to be seeing clearly what’s in front of you. You need to be seeing clearly what’s going to be happening for you over the next four years.”
“You’re freshmen today. You’re going to be seniors before you can even imagine,” Spence continued. “There are things you need to be thinking about. How are you going to take advantage of the opportunities that you will have here at Green Run High School over the next four years? Because you’re going to have some amazing opportunities. You’re going to have the opportunity to do and be anything you want to be. It’s what you do from here on out that makes a difference.”
“All of you got to high school by working. You did not get into these seats by accident,” said Spence. “So the question is, what are you going to do next?”
What 5-year-old Victor is going to do next is begin kindergarten at Ocean Lakes Elementary School. As the Classes of 2020 and 2023 transition to high school and middle school respectively, the Class of 2029 is making an important transition as well – to kindergarten.
After having attended the school division’s citywide kindergarten registration event in April, Victor had the chance to visit his school again this summer to meet his teacher.
“I am excited about learning and making art, playing outside and having fun,” said Victor. “I know all the letters. But there are some more colors to learn.”
He’s said he’s also excited about the opportunity to be a line leader and the caboose.
“The caboose – they look in the back and see if everyone is in front of them and if they are walking good or bad,” he explained.
The experience may help him with what he hopes to be in the future. “A police officer,” he said. “They catch bad guys.”