As another school year is winding down, doesn’t it seem a bit strange that so much of your time is being consumed by planning for next year? Chances are you’ve already met the students who will comprise next year’s incoming class. It’s also likely that you have held special events for those students and their parents. You're doing all that to ensure that your students’ -- and their parents' -- transition to their new school goes smoothly.
As you and your staff manage the upcoming transition, I hope you haven’t overlooked one of your school’s most valuable resources: the students who will comprise your senior class. Their energy and enthusiasm -- and their experience -- can go a long way toward to making your school’s “newbies” feel truly welcomed.
The stories below share how three schools are making use of their “seniors” as ambassadors and mentors to new schoolmates.
SENIORS REACH OUT
At Perry Hall (Maryland) High School, students in next year’s senior class are busy planning special events for the incoming freshmen. Those events aim to make new students feel welcomed and help them over the typical transition hurdles and angst. Students at both ends of the school seniority totem poll make connections by playing beach volleyball and engaging in other activities.
As the video above attests, the oldest students in your school can be among the biggest cheerleaders for new students. Their enthusiasm for special “Senior Reach Out” events can go a long way in making the “newbies” on the block feel part of the school fabric.
If you have a moment, take time to enjoy the students’ second Senior Reach Out promotional video: Senior Reach Out #2. These student-produced videos, which are shown on the school TV station to promote participation in Senior Reach Out events, are part goofy but entirely engaging -- right down to the Beatle’s “Come Together” soundtrack.
SENIOR 'CREW' PROVIDES A VITAL LINK
At South Central High School in Winterville, North Carolina, the school’s oldest students play an active roll in teaching new students shortcuts to success. Thanks to the school's “Link Crew,” new students are made to feel comfortable throughout their first year of high school.
Link Crew is a national effort, a student orientation and transition program that originated on the West Coast. Among this year’s Top 100 High Schools (Newsweek), seven of the schools use Link Crew to connect students and create a positive school climate.
Link Crew’s student members commit to an ongoing relationship with the freshmen class. Leaders and their groups meet throughout the year to address challenges that new students are encountering.
“It’s all about building relationships,” Amy Hilliard, the teacher who heads South Central's Link Crew program, told the Daily Reflector. “It's not just over after Thursday. It's a yearlong program.” [read the article]
BREAKFAST IN BROOKLYN
Each fall, the senior class at all-girls St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn, New York, plans a very special breakfast. Each new student in the school’s freshman class is assigned a senior “sister.” On breakfast day, seniors and their sisters give up a first-period class for some bonding and fun over pancakes and eggs.
The seniors help make breakfast day extra special by providing small gifts for their sisters. Mentoring relationships formed that day between “sisters” comprise a long-standing tradition at St. Joseph’s.
One freshman provided her input on the breakfast for an article in the school newspaper. “I think the breakfast was a nice experience,” she said, “but the food could have been better.” [read the article]
READ MORE ABOUT SMOOTH TRANSITIONS
Education World Article Archive: Transitions