Ahh, high school.

For some, it arrived Monday morning, like it or not.

For the freshman rookie, the hallways can seem like a maze, the bathrooms impossible to find, and frankly the whole environment can feel a little awkward.

Some students, like Michael Bourgeau at Helena High, were obviously enthusiastic about the start of a new school year.

“I’m not nervous at all,” said the friendly young man.

Others, like D.J. Maynard, admitted they were less than thrilled to have woken up early in the morning for school because it means no more sleeping in — at least until Thanksgiving break.

Both of Helena’s public high schools provided freshmen with a day just for themselves. At Helena, it’s Bengal Beginnings and across town at Capital, it’s Bruin Beginnings. There were no upperclassmen to maneuver around while attempting to get to their lockers.

The building wasn’t free of all older students, as some juniors and seniors served as mentors for the day. At the middle schools, it was eighth-graders leading the new sixth-graders.

Helena High math teacher Nicole Lindgren said it’s important for students to connect right away, and the best way to ensure that is to foster peer relationships.

Kelsey Stoner, a senior at Helena and student body president, told one group that she remembered feeling nervous about the first day of school.

“But I made it out of it,” she said with a laugh.

Kaity Mills, a Capital freshman, said she felt OK about Monday, but it was the second day she was worried about.

“I’m nervous about getting along with the older kids and getting made fun of for being a cheerleader,” Mills said.

Classmate Tyler English said getting to see all his friends and start football is the best part about school starting, but he’s not looking forward to getting up early every day.

Teachers and administrators see it differently.

“The goal is to introduce freshmen to the school in a nonthreatening way,” said Lindgren.

Lindgren said sometimes students enter high school on the first day and never come back, but she says the feeling these young people get from this orientation day that’s free of academics prevents that.

“Once we get them in there, we feel like we can keep them here,” she said. “This gets them to come back tomorrow. It’s like instant friends.”

Across town, Tirzah Bruski has taught math at Capital for 18 years.

“This is a fantastic day,” she said. “It gives (freshmen) a day to start by themselves because tomorrow another 1,000 upperclassman show up and they are big, the halls are loud, and having a chance to start like this is great.”

Helena High Principal Greg Upham said the day for freshmen is critical.

“It sets the tone of the building,” he said.

The day began in the gymnasiums with some quick games to lighten the mood. Then the freshmen were split into small groups and toured the buildings while locating their classes.

“It’s a nice day for freshmen … they get to run through their classes so by the time everyone shows up they’ve been here and gone through their schedules,” Lindgren said.

Alyssa White, a Capital junior and freshman mentor, said she hopes the new high-schoolers feel confident about their new venture.

“I hope they leave feeling happy to be in high school and that they are going to have fun for the next four years,” White said.

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

(6) comments


Wish they'd done this when I entered middle school and high school!


As the parent of an incoming Freshman, I am so grateful the kids were given this opportunity. I believe it will absolutely make the transition easier for them and am so impressed with the Link Crew work. Coming from a middle school outside of Helena means everything is new and unfamiliar but the Link Crew kids and the friendly faces met yesterday were the center of a very hopeful and upbeat report about the first day of school! Thank you for making the effort to look at the experience from our children's perspective and finding a way to ease the natural anxiety and fears they have about this very big time in their lives.


So I like this idea and I think it'll help the new class and everything ok......but I was a freshman in high school during 1995-1996 school year and although I didn't go to high school in Helena I started my freshman year the same day as the upper classmen did and I did just fine. Kids seem more "sensitive" these days and sure seem to get away with a lot more and have a lot more done for them then I did a mere 10-15 years ago.


notfromhelena - It isn't that the students are more sensitive these days, but rather the fact that Helena High has a large student population....just about 1,600 students. It is a recipe for disaster to expect the freshman, who haven't set foot in the door yet, to try and find their lockers and classrooms when they are crowded with the entire student body on the first day of school. Even after having a child go through this before I still found myself struggling last week to find all the classrooms with our freshmen daughter when we picked up her schedule. Yesterday's activities helped her find faster routes to her classrooms from her locker and allowed her to connect to some of the upper classmen.


Welcome to Helena Montana "Not from Helena". I didn't have a Freshman Day either back in 1970 but then know one ever thought of harming me or pulling tricks on me. The upper classman encouraged and included me in everything. This may not be so for students today. Times change and we must change and protect our children as much as we can and also allow them freedom to learn and get along or learn to walk away from other students or situations with their self esteem intact. I think the kids are more sensitive, they have to be with all that takes place today. Years ago we never heard of suicide rates for students, there were no school shootings taking place back then, the drugs of choice today you never know what a person will do. To my understanding, it has a lot to do with violet actions. Yes, student's today need to be more sensitive or a better word for it would be more knowledgeable about their surroundings and the people they should avoid and how to find the restroom without having to ask someone. The students get to find each of their classrooms before they are required to do it in a record amount of time. I remember getting lost in school and I couldn't find the classroom I was supposed to be in. I remember having nightmares about that. There was such little time to get from one class to the next. I think Freshman Day took care of those issues. I believe it is a step in the right direction for students and we should not think twice about it or even suggest these kids are more "sensitive" with a negative connotation implied.


momof2......helena high may have 1600 students roughly...my high school was close to 2400 and in a much larger city than helena montana and yet....we did just fine. You guys have to understand I'm not taking anything away from the fact they did it like that. I'm glad the schools do that I was just saying I went on the same day as upper classman and was just fine. Helena High and Capitol High aren't that big of schools and any child with a decent sense of direction should be able to find their way around there. My school had 3 buildings I had to navigate.

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