Last year, junior Jasmine Dawson, a proud, former “new kid,” confidently led around a small group of eighth grade CMS students around the school after she had spent two years there learning and absorbing.
The knowledge she had acquired by the end of her sophomore year perfectly transitioned into Jasmine becoming a connect captain. Connect captains spearhead the task of touring and educating incoming freshmen about high school life the spring before their first semester.
Jasmine and her partner, junior Haisley Turnquist, were both relatively new to life as a ranger when they participated in their first Connect Day. Their experience was positive enough to motivate them to become future captains.
“We decided to [become connect captains] because our freshman year we were really, really nervous because we were new to the school in eighth grade,” Jasmine said. “We decided to do it because we could give kids an experience that we really enjoyed.”
This past year found its footing in a bit of an unconventional way. Forgoing a traditional summer orientation, the introductory activities were instead held on the first day of school. Counselor Jodie Arsulowicz felt that it was successful, and the counseling staff has collectively changed the timing of Connect Day as well, from the spring to the tail end of summer.
“One of the primary purposes of Connect Day is to acclimate incoming students to our culture and building at FHC,” Arsulowicz said. “What we learned by not having a traditional orientation this year for freshman, was that the purpose of creating some comfort while starting high school was not achieved as well as we would hope by having students here in the Spring.”
Though the date may be changing, the contents of the day will remain the same. Applications are open to all sophomores and juniors, and from the applicants, future captains who will model the positive spirit and strong qualities of a ranger are selected and partnered up.
Partners can do as little or as much as they want in order to make the day fun for their small group of kids. Many duos will go all out, bringing decorations and food to match their high energies and expectations for the day.
“When [my partner and I] did it, we got really into it, and we brought candy. And we really were into the themes,” Jasmine said. “We showed the kids the spots that we wished that we would’ve seen. It was a good opportunity for the kids to learn about what they were going to experience.”
The object of the day is to introduce students to the high school climate slowly and help them build connections. These connections are so important that they’re accurately put in the name. Jasmine felt that her excellent leaders did a great job of connecting her to the school.
“I became really good friends with my connect captain because she also played volleyball,” Jasmine said. “It was really awesome just getting to know the upperclassmen and feeling safe in the school. It’s a big school, and you are very little.”
Freshman Claudia Folkert shares a similar experience of having had an excellent captain.
“Yeah, the leaders I had were very nice,” Claudia said, “specifically the one I had was great.”
Claudia, who experienced Connect Day as well as the first day of high school most recently, thought that Connect Day did a great job of introducing her to the environment. However, she also believes it did not completely erase the troubles of transitioning to a new school and all the road bumps that accompany it.
“[I think that Connect Day made starting school] a little bit easier, but I was still super confused when I got here, to be honest,” Claudia said. “I thought it was helpful because we got to kind of see the high school, but we didn’t get to see everything.”
Though Claudia found success, she is unable to foresee if that success will be repeated in the future given the time change.
Jasmine thinks that sticking with the spring date may serve to be more beneficial than the new time slot.
“I feel like if we were to do it in the spring, like how we have always done it, then the kids won’t freak out as much,” Jasmine said. “Because, if you wait till August, the kids are just going to be like ‘Oh, we are really unprepared and blindsided,’ but when we did it in the spring, the kids knew what they were coming in to and had all summer to not worry about high school and just get excited about it.”
Claudia also has apprehensions, but they are more centered on whether or not students will attend.
“I do not think it’s the best because not a lot of kids will want to go if it is in the summer,” Claudia said.
On the other hand, Arsulowicz is confident in the switch and the positive impacts she hopes it will make.
“We think that by combining the time and effort for Connect [Day] planning with orientation or possibly another event early in the fall [that] the effects of Connect activities will be more impactful and long-lasting,” Arsulowicz said.
As of right now, the effects of the date change are yet to be seen. However, what can be attested for is the importance of Connect Day, regardless of the time.
“If I didn’t go, I’d be ten times more lost,” Claudia said.