Freshman transition camp: behind the scenes

Between June 11-13 incoming freshmen were invited to Cedar Shoals High School to get an experience of what high school will be like. Throughout the three days at the freshman transition camp, students experienced everything from note taking classes to ziplining.

The camp has seen significant changes since it began in 2012.

“A woman who no longer works here [Erica Fletcher] is the one that came up with it. The first year of the camp would have been the summer of 2012. That was the first year that we had a freshman academy so that was the first year of the summer transition camp,” said Mrs. Jennifer Schmidt, previous camp coordinator.

In designing the individual course sections for the camp, coordinator and parent engagement director Dr. Melissa Perez-Rhym tried to use resources that already exist.

“I think it is important to capitalize on people’s strengths and their interests, so I talked to each teacher about what they are passionate about and what they thought would be most helpful for rising 9th graders to know, so a combination of those things,” said Perez-Rhym.

Freshman teachers volunteered to help facilitate the camp and teach courses like note taking classes and binder organization, and communication was a major theme of the camp.

One challenge for Perez-Rhym and others included communication between the new students from both Hilsman and Coile Middle Schools.

“The communication piece was a little difficult with the two schools and making sure that all the parents were informed so that they would know how to register,” said Perez-Rhym.

Another component involved organizing current Jaguars to help with the camp. Throughout the adult-directed communication and logistics, student mentors from the peer leadership classes were also present at the camp. Mentors took the students around to the different activities that they had planned, talked with the incoming freshmen and tried to break down any barriers that there might have been between under and upperclassmen.

CSHS mentors had high praise to say about the camp and how it helped them as rising freshmen as well.

“I could tell that if I see someone here that I met during camp, I could be like, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ You know, like I could easily click with somebody, so it was nice to have a friend in high school, especially if you’re new. I mean it’s kind of scary at first,” said Dania Flint, a mentor and rising senior.

Student and adult camp organizers made time to help new students learn more about each other and their surroundings.

“I want to make sure that you guys feel comfortable navigating the building.  Kids who don’t come to camp and just show up on the first day of school are really lost, and it doesn’t feel good they don’t have the confidence to know where they are going,” said Ms. Ariel Gordon, freshman counselor and department chair. Gordon facilitated the campus tour and a scavenger hunt activity at the camp.

Organizers were careful to make the camp activities informational without making new students feel intimidated or like they’re already back in school. They made sure to show all the fun that students can have in high school along with the new challenges that it will bring.

“When we are conceptualizing camp we are thinking, ‘kids don’t know their way around, kids don’t know each other, they don’t know their teachers yet like the grownups, and they might not have stress and mindfulness skills yet. So those are all of the things that go into how we teach those things in a fun way,” said Gordon.