Students get out of their comfort zones at freshman orientation


FIRE Leaders wear their shirts for this important day. Credit: Abigail Massar / The Foothill Dragon Press

Jill Vallance

After a quiet summer, Foothill was once again set abuzz with the orientation of the Class of 2021. A crowd of new Dragons could be seen outside of the school eagerly waiting to get to know their new environment for the next four years. In the same moment FIRE (Foothill Intervention, Reinforcement and Enrichment) crew members were stationed either outside or inside Spirito Hall long awaiting the arrival of the students they would soon take under their wings.

For the freshman, the first steps into Spirito Hall were lined with teachers and various staff cheering for their entrance. Once inside, the students were greeted by FIRE Crew Members, coach and teacher Anthony Unchangco, FTHS’ very own dragon mascot and loud, upbeat music.

Unchangco, wearing his iconic sequin jacket, began an introduction to the orientation and to Foothill itself. He used ice-breaker games to ease students into feeling more comfortable with being out of their comfort zones.

Coach Anthony Unchangco gives a motivational speech about high school to the freshmen. Credit: Abigail Massar / The Foothill Dragon Press
Coach Anthony Unchangco gives a motivational speech about high school to the freshmen. Credit: Abigail Massar / The Foothill Dragon Press

Making this day a social and stress free event was the main focus of Foothill’s staff.

Principal Joe Bova stated that “our goal is to meet their social, emotional needs and not have them have their first experience in our campus be a academic, rule-based situation” and he stressed that “a first impression goes a long way.”

Conni Carr, FIRE coordinator and teacher, agrees that the most important part is “letting them know it’s not just about being serious, that it’s not just about academics, that it’s about them and their transition here.

“We don’t allow admin in to talk about rules, to talk about dress code […] because it really is supposed to be a social connection piece rather than an academic rules and guidelines,” she said.

Before excusing the students to their FIRE classes, Unchangco left them with a quote that summed up the theme of the day: “You are only confined by the walls that you build for yourself. And today is a day with no walls.”

FIRE classes were filled with nine to 12 students. The atmospheres varied from being very open right from the start to being a little more reserved. But as time went on, the shyness melted away.

FIRE Leaders, being a select group of people, are trained to be enthusiastic and welcoming to their students. Taylor Escobar ‘18 wanted to become a FIRE leader “to help the freshman get a good experience.”

Justice McKenzie ‘21 and Brian Holloway ‘21 agree on Foothill’s welcoming atmosphere.

Holloway joked that “it’s very friendly and older kids, upperclassmen, interact with the freshmen. They don’t think we are annoying or stuff like that 一 yet”

McKenzie captured Foothill as “very inviting and diverse, and everybody kind of accepts everybody how they are.”

After spending time in their FIRE classes getting to know their peers, answering out of the box questions and playing strategical teamwork games, freshmen got called to visit their new classes.

In the classrooms, teachers introduced themselves while trying to give students an essence of what their class will be like. Biology teacher Ryan Duston described his goal as for “them to be relaxed and connect with me, which in five minutes is kind of hard to do, but get to know the school and really just have a fun time.”

When all was said and done, Unchangco said that “today the goal was completed.”

Unchangco described the Class of 2021 with a grin: “Each class is different, and I feel like this class is very energetic and very willing to participate. […] They aren’t afraid to be themselves, they aren’t afraid to participate, they aren’t afraid to be just, you know, be out there.”

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