Class of 2019 freshmen “arrived nervous, left happy” at orientation

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Class of 2019 freshmen “arrived nervous, left happy” at orientation

Bella Bobrow

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“Are you guys ready?” yelled one FIRE (Foothill Intervention, Reinforcement and Enrichment) crew member from on top of a table. The crowd of freshmen waiting outside cheered in approval.

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In a game called line zip-up, students repeated phrases like “You have great teeth” or “Hey, I’d like to get to know you” to students opposite them. Credit: Sarah Kagan/The Foothill Dragon Press

“Are you guys ready?” yelled one FIRE (Foothill Intervention, Reinforcement and Enrichment) crew member from on top of a table. The crowd of freshmen waiting outside cheered in approval.

They had gathered at school early this morning for freshman orientation, an annual event designed to leave behind syllabi and rule books in favor of icebreakers and fuzzy pink tiaras.

At 8 a.m., students filtered into Spirito Hall, passing under a parachute held up by Foothill teachers. Inside, pop music was blasting as Foothill’s dragon mascot danced along.

Unchangco points to the crowd. Credit: Sarah Kagan/The Foothill Dragon Press

Unchangco shows students his “first day of school” outfit. Credit: Sarah Kagan/The Foothill Dragon Press

The theme for the day was “Go out on a limb, because that’s where all the fruit is,” encouraging new students to step out of their comfort zones.

The event was organized by teachers Conni Carr and Anthony Unchangco.

“Mrs. Carr handles all the logistics and so many things that I couldn’t even think about doing,” Unchangco said.

“But you look good in the sparkly jacket,” Carr responded, drawing cheers from the students.

That theme of “going out on a limb” followed throughout the rest of the day. Nervous laughs turned into genuine ones as the day progressed and students got to know each other.

“I’m the first person that the kids see at orientation,” Unchangco said. “I take a lot of pride and responsibility in that role, because it’s scary [….] Starting your freshman year is a scary deal.”

After icebreakers led by Unchangco, students were assembled into their FIRE groups.

The FIRE crew, a group of upperclassman committed to supporting and mentoring their student groups, led name games and other activities. Last spring, they had to apply for a limited number of spots. Once selected, they attended several training sessions during the summer in preparation.

FIRE is modeled after the nationwide Link Crew program, Unchangco said. Many students said they had “no idea” what the program was prior to today.

The freshman class is enthusiastic and focused, staff said.

“Oh man, they’re energetic; I can tell they’re ready to move and rock and roll this place,” Unchangco said of the incoming class. “They’re all involved, and it’s great.”

Mikkah McClure, an incoming freshman from Deanza Academy of Technology and the Arts (DATA), thought “watching people up there dance” was fun.

In one game, FIRE crew members and students had to hug each other until a balloon between them popped. Credit: Sarah Kagan/The Foothill Dragon Press

In one game, FIRE crew members and students had to hug each other until a balloon between them popped. Credit: Sarah Kagan/The Foothill Dragon Press

“The school itself looks more mature than a middle school,” freshman Maya Contreras said with a laugh. She said she was drawn to Foothill because of the small size and supportive teachers.

FIRE crew leaders also enjoyed the event.

“I was expecting for the FIRE kids to be obnoxious, and not be happy to be at freshman orientation at all,” junior FIRE crew member Manish Manwani said. He said that this was the opposite of what he saw.

“After I met them, I feel like I’ve gained a strong connection with them,” he said. “Now they have a head start to making friends when the first day of school starts.”

Unchangco also gave students advice on how to best tackle their years at Foothill.

“The thing I want you to take away from today is that time is valuable — time is like money.”

Unchangco pulled a dollar bill from his pocked and, to the astonishment of the crowd, ripped it in half.

“You can decide to go through the process, like you have been, […] you can decide to take advantage of the knowledge that you’re gaining and invest it and use it to your advantage when you move on, […] or you could waste it,” Unchangco said.

At a similar event for parents of new students, parent Teresa de la Rosa said her daughter made the decision herself to apply to Foothill. “She actually googled and was looking into schools with good technology,” de la Rosa said. “And there happened to be one nearby.”

“I am so grateful that my daughter has the opportunity to go to a school like this,” she said, echoing the sentiments of many other parents at the gathering.

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