Freshman Connection helps to ease students transition from middle school to high school

Incoming freshmen at Hyde Park Academy, Zaida Soumanou (left to right), Davione Jackson and Kamran Deans attended Freshman Connection for two weeks; it is a program designed to help them to transition into their first year of high school. (Photo by Samantha Smylie)

Staff writer

The first week of high school as a freshman can be exciting and anxiety-inducing. Students are learning the layout of a new school, a new bus route, making new friends and adjusting to the rigor of classes. For Hyde Park Academy’s incoming freshmen Davione Jackson, Kamran Deans and Zaida Soumanou, a summer program called “Freshman Connection” has prepared them for challenges they may face as first-year students.

“Freshman Connection” is a two-week summer program designed to give incoming freshmen insight on how to navigate high school. At Hyde Park Academy, the school has been focused on providing students with academic and social-emotional support. In the morning, students have to take four classes that in reading, writing, STEM and math, but after lunch they transition to social-emotional learning.

“Students have two rotations with counselors to work on ‘High School 101.’ They learn how important grades are, what’s your GPA, building relationships with people in the building and even helping them to identify people and titles of staff members that will be important for their progression throughout the year,” explained Rosette Edinburg, who is a coordinator in the IB MYP (International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme) and who has coordinated freshman connection at Hyde Park Academy for the past three years.

“High school is a beast: it is seven classes, seven different teachers, seven different expectations. On top of that, there are questions about ‘How do I fit in? Who am I finding out my true identity versus the image that I want to portray so that I am part of the crew or the cool kids?’ So it’s the intrinsic skills that we are developing that’s going to help them to develop the grit that will make them successful throughout high school,” said Edinburg.

Participation in Freshman Connection is not mandatory for students, but for Jackson, Deans and Soumanou – who attended every day of the summer program – it has helped them to create bonds with other incoming first-years and learn the layout of the school.

“Freshmen connection has been going great so far. I didn’t really start talking to people until this week. I wasn’t really engaged at first because I didn’t want to be here. Once I got to know people and it has been great just getting to know other people, “ said Soumanou.

The program has even eased their nerves about entering high school. Jackson said “When I was in elementary school, the teachers made it seem like high school was bad – like it was a hell. But when I got here it wasn’t really nothing like how they set it out to be.”

Jackson, who has older siblings who graduated from Hyde Park Academy and cousins who attend, expects the school year will go great. He plans on becoming an athlete; he is interested in wrestling and track.

Deans hopes that high school will open his eyes to new experiences, and he hopes to join the debate team.. For his freshman year he hopes, “I just want to be number one out of my whole freshman class and that’s it.”

However, Deans will have some competition because Soumanou has her eye on the same prize; she has always been on the honor roll throughout elementary school. Even if she is not number 1, she would like to be in the top percentile of her class to obtain college scholarships.

Soumanou’s advice is for current eighth grade students is, “Don’t be scared. Just know that everybody can’t be your friend, focus on your education and friends will come. But, they’re not always going to be there, you might have a group of friends freshman year and ya’ll may separate sophomore year. You just gotta worry about you making it to college.”