The first day of school ushers in a new start for many students. From running off to find classes to the excitement of seeing old friends and making new ones, the beginning of school can bring out emotions of all kinds.
Perhaps those who understand this complicated mix of feelings the most are sixth and ninth graders. Transitioning from elementary to middle school or middle to high school is a big milestone for a student that can sometimes feel intimidating.
However, throughout Poudre School District, middle and high schools offer Transition Days to help students adjust and have an opportunity to learn their way around before the official first day. Staff and student leaders prepare for this annual tradition to create an environment built on connection. While schools across the district have their differences, each Transition Day has the same goal in mind: making sure students are confident and prepared as they head into the new school year.
At Rocky Mountain High School, cheers and applause from staff welcomed incoming students as they entered the school, and this chain of positivity continued as students made their way into the gym to be greeted by the Link Crew Leaders before a short assembly.
Link Crew is a program for juniors and seniors that helps prepare freshmen as they transition into high school. This program is here to support students for who they are and show that everyone is linked together.
Assistant Principal Ian Wells works closely with Link Crew and the freshmen class at Rocky. He described this day as a trampoline to start students’ high school careers in a positive direction. It is a day to meet people and connect as human beings before jumping into the academic side of things.
“It’s super impactful and powerful,” said Wells. “We’ve seen the results of how it can change the course of somebody’s freshman year based on the connection they built in that one day.”
Avery Martinez, a junior at Rocky, knows firsthand the impact a Link Leader can have.
Although she said she didn't have a good experience with her Link Leaders as a freshman, she joined to make a change for others.
While walking on a school tour with her group, Martinez said she is excited to be more involved with the Lobo community this year and offered some wisdom from her experience.
“High school gets a bad reputation,” said Martinez. “It’s not that scary, you just have to put yourself out there, and you will be okay. You got to trust one another.”
A few miles away that same morning, students at Webber Middle School started their day with a similar grand welcome.
Staff rolled out a literal red carpet for students as they walked in, and throughout the day, students participated in various team-building activities and a tour of the school led by WEB Leaders, allowing incoming students to get to know their school and other students.
“It takes a team effort and the whole community of Webber working together to make this thing happen," said Cassy O'Connor, an eighth-grade languages arts teacher and one of the WEB Coordinators. "It is vital for our school community.”
WEB stands for Where Everybody Belongs. It is a national program to help students settle into middle and high school. At Webber, these students not only run this orientation program for sixth graders but continue as student leaders by keeping the school spirit up, planning school events, working to make Webber a better place and looking after their sixth grade group all year long.
Since elementary school is a smaller environment, going into middle school can be a shock to someone's system according to Mark Jankow, a seventh-grade English teacher and WEB Coordinator.
"The goal of transition day is to make middle school feel smaller, let them meet other kids, run through their schedules so that when they start with all of the other students they have a good foundation," he said.
Before heading into the assembly, incoming sixth grader Levi Lofstrom said he had an awesome day so far and that it was nice to have a day to have fun and meet other students before jumping straight into academics.
Even then, he is excited about the new changes and responsibilities that come with middle school.
“I'm excited to have responsibility for myself, not having my teachers having to walk me everywhere," said Lofstrom. "I have to be the one responsible for getting to class on time and all of that stuff.”
Not only does entering middle school offer more responsibility for the sixth graders, but WEB provides eighth-grade students with expanded leadership opportunities and responsibilities.
Avery Woodall is one of these WEB Leaders excited to gain leadership experience and show other students what she loves about Webber. She specifically wants to help students off to a great start, especially those who might be nervous about joining a new school.
Now that she is going into her final year of middle school, Woodall offers this advice to anyone uneasy about the new beginnings middle school can bring.
“There’s so many insecurities when you go into a middle school and that kind of age group," said Woodall. "You need to remember that everyone's feeling the same thing, and so no one is going to be staring at you and judging you. They're all focused on themselves. Try to not make your insecurities who you are.”