Junior Ashley Jenkins still remembers how intimidating high school seemed on her first day of freshman year. Like any ninth grader, she felt dwarfed and overwhelmed. Luckily, this was not her first time in the building, thanks to Connect Day.
“When I was an incoming freshman, I thought Connect Day was really fun,” Ashley said. “It actually helped me a ton because I was nervous to come up to high school. It helped ease my nerves.”
Ashley, along with the rest of her class, participated in the annual Connect Day when they were in eighth grade.
“Connect Day gives eighth graders [an] opportunity to come to the high school and experience it like they’re going to next year,” high school counselor and Connect Day organizer Teresa Miller said. “They get to be here, and the upperclassmen show them around.”
This year, Connect Day is Wednesday, May 31. Miller and other counselors have been beyond busy with coordinating operations for Connect Day. Fortunately, they have the help of Connect Captains.
“A Connect Captain is a [current] tenth or eleventh grader who shows eighth graders around the school,” sophomore Connect Captain Lily Martin said. “[We] give them a little preview of what high school is like.”
Connect Captains are assigned groups of eighth graders to guide. Not only are Captains vital in helping execute the task of running the day smoothly, they also offer eighth graders a source of wisdom and connection.
Connect Day is unique because eighth graders get to see what high school is like in real motion.
“It’s different from Freshman Orientation Day,” biology teacher Kristy Butler said. “In August when they come for Orientation Day, there’s nobody in the halls, but on Connect Day, the eighth graders get to see classes in action.”
Eighth graders will even have the chance of experiencing the school cafeteria first-hand by eating lunch with their Connect Captains.
“The goal of Connect Day is to help the eighth graders become acclimated to the high school,” counselor Sarah Van’t Hof said. “We give Connect Captains a schedule of what the day looks like: they’ll take the eighth graders on a tour, eat lunch with them, do team building activities, and talk about what the culture of FHC is like.”
Now, as a junior, Ashley is participating in this monumental day as a Connect Captain. She hopes to help the incoming freshmen feel less nervous than she did on her first day.
“My goal for Connect Day is to help make the eighth graders not feel anxious about coming up to the high school,” Ashley said. “I don’t want them to be stressed about it. I want to show them that high school is a fun place.”
Ashley wants to help eighth graders in as many direct ways as possible; thankfully, part of Connect Day is dedicated to just that.
“There’s a question panel,” Ashley said. “So, there’s a student panel and a teacher panel where you talk to the eighth graders about high school.”
Often, Connect Captains will become friends with the eighth graders, giving the newcomers a friendly face to turn to in the upcoming year.
“We choose students who have some leadership skills,” Miller said. “[They] are going to be positive influences on the incoming freshmen. When the freshmen are here next year, they’ll see upperclassmen they knew from Connect Day.”
Connect Day holds so much meaning; it acts as a bridge between two very different worlds. Central Middle School principal Glenn Mitcham recognizes the value this day holds for the eighth graders.
“I hope that they gain more understanding of high school life,” Mitcham said. “I hope they can meet and interact with some of the great staff. If they don’t already, [I hope they] look forward to what is to come for them at the high school.”
Before Ashley got a feel for the high school building, all she could see was the endless maze of hallways unfolding before her with each step; every upperclassman seemed to loom over her timid freshman self.
“The scariest part for incoming freshmen is the size difference,” Miller said. “Since early elementary school, they’ve been with the same group of people. Now, they’re the youngest people in four grades. The building’s bigger, the classes might be bigger. You might be in a class with a senior, which is intimidating.”
The high school’s curriculum is more rigorous than the middle school’s, and the freshmen might not have their hands held as much as they had previously. Connect Captains offer helpful insight regarding the transition from eighth grade to high school.
“[My advice to freshmen would be] to try hard freshman year,” junior Connect Captain Elysee Gerondale said.
English teacher Ken George echoes this sentiment in his annual Connect Day speech. Every year, George delivers a message to the eighth graders that will resonate with them throughout their entire high school careers.
“My main message is that freshman year counts,” George said. “Over the years, my message has grown to also telling [the eighth graders] to make good choices.”
Many Connect Captains use this day as a chance to reassure eighth graders that they will find their “thing” in high school.
“I am most excited to shine some light on the less popular–yet awesome–activities that Central offers,” Lily said. “There are so many ways to get involved in school besides sports.”
High school is an engine for character development, and junior Connect Captain Kaley Kaminski recognizes the importance of this.
“Don’t worry so much about high school,” Kaley said. “I mean, obviously you will worry at times, but take a deep breath. Just let it happen and work with others to find your spot in high school. For me, high school really helped me come out of my shell.”
A tour of the high school and a day with the upperclassmen will leave the eighth graders with a resounding message: get involved.
“You should really get involved with different parts of high school,” Ashley said. “Time goes by really fast, and reaching out will give you a better high school experience. You’ll meet more people, and you’ll have more fun.”