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Seniors share secrets of high school success with freshman class

The transition from middle to high school can be an exciting yet intimidating time for students. Along with the new freedoms that come with being a high Freshman Transition Programschool freshman there are also new challenges as students learn to acclimate to more demanding academic schedules, increased responsibilities and expectations and the adjustment to being part of a larger student body.

Navigating a new campus, adapting to a more rigorous course load, and familiarizing oneself with new teachers and students requires a period of adjustment and some special guidance, which is why Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Guidance Department developed the Freshman Transition Program.

“The Freshman Transition Program is the Guidance Department’s initiative to help freshmen acclimate to high school life,” said Guidance Counselor Katrina Salvatoriello.

According to Ms. Salvatoriello, though the program has existed at the high school for some time, it was recently expanded with the goal of providing freshmen with the skills and strategies necessary to support their social, emotional, and academic success. 

“Under the newly expanded program, the guidance counselors have met and will continue to meet with the freshman in small groups,” she said. “During the group sessions, students learn the necessary skills and strategies to monitor their academic growth. Goal setting and interventions are also discussed.”

The sessions also include hands-on tutorials in the use of Naviance, the district’s college and career readiness platform and the Parent Portal, on which the students learn to monitor their grades and assignments.

“For added support and encouragement, we pair the freshman with peer mentors,” she said.

New to this year’s Freshman Transition Program was the Welcome New Student Social, which was held in early October for students new to the Point Pleasant School District.
 
Counselors, select teachers and even students enrolled in the high school’s new Tomorrow's Teacher program – a program that allows aspiring teachers to gain specialized training and hands-on experience in teaching while also earning college credit - coordinated the 45-minute event, during which the new students engaged in ice-breaking activities and worked with peer mentors.

Another new initiative for this year’s Transition Program, included a student-led forum entitled, "Things I Wish I Knew as a Freshman". On Oct. 11, while their peers in grades 10 and 11 were busy taking the PSAT’s, the high school’s ninth and select twelfth graders gathered in the auditorium for a tête-à-tête about high school life.

“The panel of 13 seniors, along with event emcees Tanner Gordon and Trevor McNamara, addressed the entire freshman class, discussing a variety of topics chosen to help the freshmen adjust to high school and to have a more successful high school experience overall,” said Ms. Salvatoriello.

Among the topics discussed were, study skills, organization, common challenges, where and from whom students can receive extra help, academic integrity, getting involved, finding balance between academics and co-curricular activities, finding a niche, attendance, responsibility, and community service.

The panelists also doled out advice on preparing for college.

“Start keeping track of your activities now,” said panelist Morgan Mulvey. “There will be things you do now that you may not remember when it comes time to complete your resumes for your college applications. Write everything down now. You can also begin researching schools now to narrow down your selections because the earlier you start the better.”

Panelist Michael Petillo shared some tips to avoid conflict with others, he said, “You’ll learn there’s a big change from middle to high school. As you mature, you learn to respect others and though you may not get along with everyone, that’s ok but there’s never any reason to make anyone feel bad about themselves.”

Emcee Trevor McNamara also weighed in on what to do when encountered with a bullying situation, saying, “If you’re being bullied tell a friend, teacher or other trusted adult.”

The panelists also fielded questions from the freshman, patiently answering their queries on subjects like grading, co-curricular activities and the SATs.

The panelists included James Fara, Ryan Henn, Allison Cooper, Morgan Mulvey, Annabella Schatzman, Kimberly Anilonis, Emily Strassheim, Michael Petillo, Nicole DeJacimo, Erin Cox, Meghan Seitter, Carson Swisher and Alex D'Amato.

“The panelists were selected based on a variety of factors, not necessarily academics,” said Counselor Jill Nydam.  “Recognizing that every student’s high school experience is unique, we wanted the panelists to represent a broad cross-section of the student body, so we included students that may have struggled in high school, those who have transferred to our district, student-athletes, students involved in the performing arts, class officers and others.”

Mrs. Nydam said the panel discussion was such a success, the Guidance Department plans to make it a permanent addition to the Freshman Transition Program.

“We definitely plan to continue the forum annually,” she said. “Though many of the topics are covered at length by counselors, teachers and parents, when the freshman hear advice from their older peers I think it just resonates more strongly. Plus, our seniors have their own unique perspectives to share and their experiences are certainly fresher in their minds.”

The start of high school should not be a time for anxiety and uncertainty but rather a time to discover your strengths and determine who you are

“The start of freshman year can be fraught with anxiety though it truly needn’t be,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. “Though any new situation comes with a fair amount of uncertainty, high school is truly an unencumbered time for students to discover their strengths and determine their interests and who they want to be. However, with the wisdom of experience, I know that it’s easier said than done, which is why programs like the Freshman Transition Program are so crucial. Not only does the program provide a framework to connect our high school seniors with the freshmen, further promoting the inclusive climate that has been established at the high school, but it also provides the freshman with the social and emotional supports to foster their success throughout high school at the most crucial time of their high school careers – the beginning.

“I’d really like to commend the Guidance Department on their efforts to provide our incoming freshman with a comprehensive introduction to high school life and for

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