Hundreds of members of the new freshman class gathered in the West Henderson gymnasium for orientation on Aug. 22. Filled with nerves and excitement, the newcomers were welcomed by the friendly faces of upperclassmen and their future teachers, as a part of the newly implemented freshman mentor program.

According to Assistant Facilitator Tiffany Owens, the goal of the program is to establish connections for the incoming freshmen, as well as to ease their nerves prior to the first day of school.

“It provides a way for freshmen to adapt to high school life coming up from eighth grade,” Owens said. “The program utilizes teachers, like myself and Mr. (Matthew) Parent, as assistant facilitators, as well as upperclassmen to lead the discussions and activities we have planned. All in all, this program is really just a means to help the freshmen make connections to other kids and teachers, but also to ensure that all of our students have someone to go to if they need anything.”

(Video by Amanda Jane Whiting)

The idea for the freshman mentor program was introduced during the second semester of the 2018-19 school year. Soon after, Karen Dellinger and Nicole Gorry, the program’s main facilitators, began to recruit upperclassmen as mentors.

“I love helping kids and was a part of the mentor program in eighth grade,” sophomore Lupita Montiel said. “It feels good to help kids who are bilingual, like me, feel less intimidated about a new school.”

Each group is composed of 20-30 freshmen and three or more mentors, all of which have established plans to meet in various locations across the school each Wednesday morning for the rest of the school year.

“We’ve been given a schedule for each week,” Owens said. “Sometimes we get to decide what topics or activities we cover. But essentially, we get ideas from Ms. Gorry or Ms. Dellinger and either use those ideas or create our own activities centered around a similar theme.”

Although the program was only recently established, many freshmen say it has helped them transition smoothly into their first year.

“We got to meet our mentors before school started, which made my first day a lot less stressful since I wasn’t worried about getting lost,” freshman Colton Lowery said. “Our meetings really give me time to decompress before the school day and open up about a lot of different topics.”

By: Marissa Detwiler, Feature Writer

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