Aberdeen freshmen have their day

Summer event helps ease transition, offers activities to help build relationships with peers and older students

August 24, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Baltimore Sun

As kids head back to school tomorrow, freshmen at Aberdeen High School may find the first day a little less daunting.

During the summer, more than 100 incoming ninth graders got a look at the school, the upperclassmen and their peers, when they participated in the school's first freshman field day.

With more than 400 new freshmen expected to attend the school this year, the event was part of a multipronged approach to improve freshman transition, said Lesley Taylor, a teacher at the school.

"Field day was initiated to help build greater relationships within the incoming class," Taylor said. "The first week of school can be very difficult."

Activities galore

Activities offered during the field day included jump-roping, Latin dancing, sponge relays, watermelon seed spitting and face painting. The event was started to help alleviate some of the fears of incoming freshmen, with tours of the school, and fun, bonding activities, said Valerie Cooper, assistant principal of Aberdeen High School.

"For many of the kids, this is their first time on campus, and we want it to be a positive experience," Cooper said. "We hope that being here today will help these students get acclimated to the building, and each other."

School administrators have always been concerned with making the transition during a student's first year easier, said Tom Szerensits, principal of the school for the past six years. Students come to high school concerned about being teased, academics, getting lost or being late to class, he said.

"We have a large building, and it can be somewhat overwhelming," Szerensits said. "We wanted to do something to make things easier for freshmen by allowing them to meet their teachers and some of the kids they will go to school with this year."

During the event, some of the older students let the freshmen take their best shots.

Brittany Santos, a sophomore, donned a large black trash bag, and then stood in front of some teenagers who had gathered on the sidelines of the football field at Aberdeen High.

Next to her Christine Cox, also a sophomore, squirted whipped cream into foil pie tins, and handed them to kids to throw at her classmate. Santos closed her eyes as pie after pie flew at her face.

"Getting a pie in the face is just my way of doing something to help put the freshmen at ease," said Santos, who used her fingers as a brush to get the cream out of her thick, red hair.

Pies and painting

Near the pie throwing event, students were getting their faces painted, jumping rope, participating in three-legged races and freshmen were competing against upperclassmen and teachers in tug of war.

Between activities, some of the incoming freshmen shared their thoughts about high school.

Tabitha Bowers is worried about making friends and doing well academically, she said.

"I'm worried that people won't like me for me," said Bowers, 14, of Aberdeen, who wants to be a veterinarian. "But I'm looking forward to making new friends. People tell me that high school will be the best years of my life."

But that doesn't stop her from being afraid of the upperclassmen, she said. She said she's heard horror stories about Freshman Friday, a day when the upperclassmen allegedly torment the freshmen.

"My cousin told me he is going to throw me in a trash can and roll me down the stairs," Bowers said.

Freshman Friday is harmless, said Cox, 15.

"We just have fun," she said as she filled pie tins. "We don't mind taking a pie in the face today. We're just getting warmed up to get the freshmen back when school starts. But it's all just for fun."

Freshman jitters

Briana Freburger, a sophomore, remembers freshman jitters all too well, she said.

"The upperclassmen can be scary," said Briana, 14, of Belcamp, who was a field day volunteer. "I can relate to the freshmen because it wasn't so long ago that I was where they are now."

The key is to relax, she said.

"When you start high school, you have to stay calm, and stay away from the stupid drama," she said. "If kids do that, they will be fine."

The field day was designed to help kids meet peers who want to accomplish some of the same things, said Salina Williams, the former vice president of the school board, who attended Aberdeen High.

"There is so much peer pressure out there ... drugs, alcohol," Williams said. "Kids need to have positive influences in their lives to make good choices. Events like the field day give kids a chance to see there are kids who don't want those things."

'I made friends today'

Deana Trimble, of Forest Hill, who will be attending the Science and Math Academy, a school housed in the Aberdeen High building, said she didn't know anyone else who was attending the school before the event. However, she met some of her classmates at the field day, participated in one of the relays, and played games.

"I made friends today," Deana, 14, said with a big smile. "I haven't really thought about it before today, because I wanted to enjoy my summer. But it will be nice to see a familiar face on the first day of school."

Corrin Beach, a senior at Aberdeen, said the event would have helped make her transition into high school easier. She was a little disappointed they didn't start field day when she was a freshman, she said.

"It's hard when you go to a new school, and you aren't ready," said Corrin, 17, of Aberdeen.

Kathy Gentry, a Spanish teacher and department chairman at the school, agreed.

"High school can seem like a foreign world to some kids," said Gentry, who has been teaching at the school for seven years. "It's good to give kids a way to connect before the first day of school. It's good for the teachers because we can make the connection to the students from the start. And it's a chance for the older students to help the younger students along."

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