Freshman readiness courses: RHS hopes to make transition less intimidating

High school. Compacted in these two simple words are the fears, hopes, and insecurities of teenagers — both nationwide and just across town.

Compared to the middle schools, everything about RHS is larger — from the building’s size to the student’s workload. And this can be intimidating, especially for the institution’s newest pupils.

That’s why for the past few weeks, “Freshman Readiness Courses” have been held at SRMS to prepare incoming ninth graders for their transition to the big pond.

“We see so much anxiety about the high school,” said Jennifer DeJulio, RHS social studies teacher and co-organizer of the program. “With the courses, we hope to quell any nerves and help students feel confident as they begin their high school careers.”

The program ran in three sessions on the mornings of July 11-13th, 18-20th, and 25-27th, respectively.

“We hit about a quarter of the freshman class,” said DeJulio, ballparking the number of participants at 100 students.

Life at RHS

During the three days of courses, students were placed in mock scenarios of life at the high school, learning everything from how to read the constantly shifting checkerboard of a class schedule to tips on how to rebound after failing a test.

The knowledge gained was more than just academic.

“Especially for kids who may be shy, the social aspect of the program is nice,” said Ashley Sullivan, an RHS social studies teacher and co-organizer of the event.

“Students can meet new people to talk to,” she said. “Even if it is just three new friends — that can be worth it."

Sullivan sees an added benefit for St. Mary’s graduates and other students from outside of Ridgefield who may not know as many peers coming into RHS.

Student becomes teacher

But perhaps most valuable to participants was time spent listening to a panel of current high school students answer questions and speak to their own experiences, providing a more intimate glimpse into the reality of life at RHS.

“It can be nice to hear from someone who is not a sibling,” DeJulio said of the panel.

Moreover, student speakers were able to provide advice that teachers or parents might not know.

“Get a Facebook account,” senior Natalie Silver coached the incoming freshman. “A lot of clubs use it to communicate and it makes it easier to contact classmates whose phone numbers you might not have.”

“Don’t buy binders for all of your classes,” junior Clay Vaughan advised.

He went on to explain one of RHS lingo’s most popular idiomatic expressions, “freshman backpack,” a term used to refer to an overstuffed bag, that had its origins with new ninth graders packing too heavily.

But the student panelists also had words of encouragement.  

“You’ll be fine,” Silver said. “It takes about a week to figure out where your classes are, two weeks to figure out the fastest way to get there."