It’s no secret that the transition from middle to high school can be a tough and confusing one. Today, the Class of 2020 took the first step on this journey at the annual freshman orientation. According to coach and teacher Anthony Unchangco, the goal of the day was to “lower that filter of [high school] being a scary and intimidating process.”
To kick it off, students grabbed name tags and were ushered into Spirito Hall by a tunnel of teachers holding a parachute. Once inside, FIRE (Foothill Intervention, Reinforcement and Enrichment) leaders and the dragon mascot danced to fun songs.
When all of the students were inside, Unchangco popped out from behind the curtain and welcomed the Class of 2020 to Foothill.
“So today is just your pre-first day of school,” he said to them. “We’re going to show you around. We’ve got some awesome people. […] We’re going to get you out of that summer mode and get you into the school year mode.”
FIRE crew coordinator and teacher Conni Carr said that the event “isn’t your typical orientation.”
“We don’t do anything that has to do with rules and policies on campus. It’s really about making connections with the kids and getting them some upper grade mentors and advisors and friends so that our campus is more inclusive […] when they first come and so the first day of school is not quite as scary as it might be,” she said.
In Spirito Hall, Unchangco introduced a few administrators and led the group of newcomers in a few “warm up” activities that included “Simon Says” and a balloon popping game in which students had to pop balloons between themselves by hugging.
Following the balloon activity, Unchangco told the students about the three types of people at Foothill: the participant, the observer and the non-participant.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a participant or an observer but be willing to go from one to the other,” he said. “The best things in your life will happen outside of your comfort zone.”
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278895002″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Following a closing speech from Unchangco, students got into their FIRE groups and took part in bonding activities led by their FIRE leaders.
Foothill’s FIRE orientation is modeled after a larger program called Boomerang.
Boomerang is “an outside entity that put together an entire scripted orientation that is focused on making connections with the students and having them make connections with their peers and the upper grade students,” Carr said. She said the program is all about “taking it out of the teacher’s hands and really making it about students supporting students.”
Jadon Carlson became a FIRE leader because of his positive experiences as a freshman and he “wanted to pay it forward.” He thought that this event was “very successful.”
“I had a great time bonding with my kids and show them where everything was,” he said. “I want them to get that they can always ask for help around campus. Everybody is real friendly. We’re a close, tight-knit community.”
After students received their schedules, they got to tour around campus and meet their teachers.
“They get to go to each class to put a face with the names of the teachers. Put a location with a room numbers so that the first week of school isn’t scary and so they know where they’re going,” Carr said.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/278894910″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Incoming freshman Hayden Hickerson said she feels “really prepared” for high school after coming to orientation.
She said, “Everyone was super nice and I know where all my classes are now so I’m really excited.”
The day ended with a closing ceremony from Unchangco where he reminded students that “time is money” during their time at Foothill.
He said, “You can spend your time here. You can invest in your time here. Or you can just let your days pass and waste them.”
Background Photo Credit: Grace Carey / The Foothill Dragon Press