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 firstname.lastname@example.org