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Summer Programs Ease the High School Transition for Incoming Freshmen

Come the end of May, it’s generally high school and college graduations that get all the glory. Middle school graduation might not be considered as big of a milestone, but it marks an incredibly important transition in a young person’s life as they’re essentially moving into the big leagues of their K-12 education -- high school.

Some high schools are helping to ease this transition from eighth to ninth grade through summer programs that work to prepare incoming freshmen for high school life.

After all, there’s a lot riding on a student’s educational success with how they handle their first year of high school. More intense workloads and high expectations from teachers can add a lot of pressure. Making that first year of high school pretty daunting for many students.

“I’m going to get run over by all those tall kids,” anxious incoming freshmen Falice Moore confessed to the Peoria Journal Star.

Rising high schoolers just like Falice are participating in programs like W.I.N.N.I.N.G., or What I Need Now for Ninth Grade, this summer to get them high school ready. The Peoria Public Schools program is working with 35 students that are at risk of potentially dropping out of high school.

Described as a “bottleneck” year, a report by the National High School Center said that more students fail ninth grade than any other grade. Students who fall off-track during their first year of high school are more likely not to graduate.

Students who participate in W.I.N.N.I.N.G. learn socio-emotional skills like empathy, self-control, and mindfulness, to help them manage the stress that comes with high school life. They also participate in lessons that help them with goal planning, both short- and long-term.

“Our goal is for 100 percent of these students to be on track to graduate by the end of their freshman year and for 100 percent to graduate,” said Derrick Booth, the district’s director of social and emotional learning.

Students who will be starting ninth grade at Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut are also participating in a similar program. Dubbed FLIGHT (Future-focused Learning that’s Individualized, Growth-oriented and helps provide a Healthy Transition), freshmen meet with the school's two guidance counselors both one-on-one and in groups, as well as with teachers to discuss academic goals and voice questions and concerns.

Other high schools such as Waccamaw High School in Georgetown, South Carolina, are doing their best to prepare newly-graduated eighth graders for high school life by providing them with older student mentors.

Members of the high school’s leadership team visited with eighth graders at the end of May to answer any questions they might have and offer tips on everything from planning their class load to staying motivated.

For incoming freshman Michael Quinn, getting some insight from students already in the high school trenches was reassuring. “They did a really good job of explaining what would happen when we got to high school,” Quinn said.

Christine Hutchinson a guidance counselor at Oregon Connections Academy Middle School recommends students visiting any orientations their high school might have and parents taking the time to learn about their child’s new school environment and class schedule. Hutchinson stressed that parents make sure kids know they aren’t alone in entering high school life and have the support of their counselors, parents, and any older siblings.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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