Freshmen Orientation: It’s Not Just For Freshmen

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Katie Pierce

It happens every year at Lake Forest High School.  Upperclassmen look back on the day with a smile. Sophomores usually breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to repeat the day for a second time.  But for our incoming freshmen, it’s a day dedicated just for them.

Freshmen orientation took place on Tuesday, and it included everything from team building to a short run through of individual class schedules.  The classic clap in included greeters such as sports teams, teachers, Croya, and even the band and drumline.

From personally observing students walk through the clap in and sit through their new classes, the looks on their faces are ones that I recognize.  Some display outright fear. Some are observant, their eyes scanning the surroundings and taking every detail in. Others have a friend to talk to, almost looking relieved to have something to feel comfortable about in the new environment. 

“This is such a pivotal moment for kids coming into high school,” Principal Chala Holland said.  “There is a lot of anxiety; the parents have some of that. No matter how many students a parent may have had previously, I’m sure it’s never easy to navigate through another transition with their kid.”

Regardless of how these new students reacted, I was immediately able to see and believe that they were going to be able to find a niche in each and every one of their courses, somewhere where they felt comfortable and welcomed.  I felt the same way. It’s almost impossible for me to remember my orientation day in full–high school has been such a blur–but by watching the new freshmen, I could see parts of my nervous self in their faces.

Despite the actual day being named “freshmen orientation,” the day has an impact on the entire school as a community.  “Across our entire staff, we’ve been focusing in on making sure that we are a community of learners, all of us as learners, that we welcome everyone into this community in a way that is affirming, that is validating and that is supportive,” said Holland, who was animated when discussing the day’s events.  She went on to describe the clap in as an community experience, one that makes her emotional every year.

Band Director Janene Kessler shared that the freshmen orientation day is a great way for students and teachers get acquainted, and it is an extremely welcoming event for the new students.  The band and drumline participated in the clap in, playing popular songs and drum cadences as the freshmen walked past.

After discussing the impact that freshmen orientation has on the school community, I shared with Dr. Holland that personally, it is shocking to me that so much time had passed since my clap in during my freshman year.  At the end of this year, I will be clapped out of the high school, and it seems to me that I will have only spent about a day or two at this school, let alone four years.

These are just some of the reasons why participating in the freshmen orientation every year has had an impact on how I see the passage of time.  By being in the band, I have witnessed three different groups of students become acquainted with the ways of this school, be it during pep rallies, concerts, or even at sporting events.  But it’s always the orientation day that reminds me of how far I’ve come as a student, and how far each of these students are going to go in the next four years at this school.

So, to all the freshmen reading this: congratulations; welcome to our home.  Regardless of how you felt during the unofficial first day of school, you’re going to have an impact on our community that you have no idea about yet.  Somewhere inside of you, there is a bundle of confidence and personality. Some of you have shared that already, and some of you may be hesitant. I know it seems hard right now, but you belong here.  There is a time for everything. There is a time for you. If your time isn’t now, it will be soon. Welcome to Lake Forest High School; we’ve been waiting for someone like you.