Incoming Freshmen Get a Jump Start on the School Year

By Virgina Calistro
New Haven Public Schools Communications Intern
The jump from eighth grade to freshman year is often a daunting one, and a smooth landing can set the tone for a successful high school career.
To this end, district students have the opportunity to take part in a four-week 8th Grade Transition Program. The summer program, which is now in its second year of operation, is designed to prepare students for the challenges of freshman year academically, socially, and emotionally.
During the month of July, students are actively engaged in math and English instruction in an informal setting. The incoming freshman get a head start by working with certified teachers on enrichment projects that touch on material taught during the opening weeks of school.
To aid with the social emotional element of the transition, the program hosts a symposium at which a panel of current high school students reflect on their experiences in high school thus far.
At James Hillhouse High School, one of three sites for the program, this panel featured both rising sophomores and rising seniors. The sophomores talked about their recent freshman experience, while the seniors offered tidbits of wisdom on things they wish they had done differently, namely: remaining focused on their schoolwork.
The most important piece of advice rising freshman Kiana Brown took away was to “come with a positive attitude.” Other students appreciated the advice that they should try to separate out what was important to their peers to what was important to themselves, and to “make learning the priority.”
The rising freshmen were then given an opportunity to meet with the older students and coaches. Kiana chatted with the basketball coach, although the two were already familiar having worked together at summer sport camps.
The program is part of an effort to alleviate some of the first-day chaos, the ongoing effects of which can cause roadblocks during freshman year.
“I think I’m gonna get lost,” commented recent Conte-West Hills graduate, India Thigpen.
Although students could not be offered a full tour during the symposium session, as Hillhouse is undergoing a transition of its own with the opening of the new IDEA Academy, time spent in the classrooms helps make the adjustment process a more natural one.
“I came to get familiar with the school,” said Tierra Whitaker of Fair Haven. Of course, the trip to Six Flags at the end of the program doesn’t hurt the draw.
Mustapha Lahun, a Barnard School graduate who is looking forward to playing football, basketball and running track, said the program has helped him to learn about the options available for academic support.
“You don’t have to put yourself down if you’re not doing well,” Lahun commented. “Any subject you’re struggling in, there are teachers who will take the time to help you.” He added: “Don’t get frustrated. If you want good grades, it’s always possible to get them.”
High school can be an overwhelming and daunting experience, especially initially. The program helps the incoming students appreciate that while the social, academic, and emotional adjustment may be difficult, there are caring teachers and fellow students who are willing to go out of their way to help.