Sophomores in the Baldwinsville school district returned to school Sept. 2, a day earlier than other students in the district, for a 90-minute orientation at the high school.
To ease the stress of transitioning to the high school, school staff members created the Baker Transition Team, a group of student mentors who act as guides and advocates for sophomores on the first day of school and through out the school year. The program was piloted last year, and, after working out a few kinks, it was brought back for this year's sophomore class.
Guidance counselor Kristen Foote, who's one of the staff members responsible for the BTT, said 44 juniors and seniors were specially trained to be student mentors. To be selected for the BTT, students had to apply to the program and go through an interview process.
Orientation began in the gym with Foote welcoming more than 400 students as "the Class of 2011," which elicited a large cheer from the sophomores. Foote explained to students that their attitude would be a factor in their success, academically and socially, in high school. Before introducing the BTT members, she encouraged the sophomores to join clubs and groups to help create a positive environment at the high school.
Samantha Hamm, a senior, applied to be a BTT member because she remembered her first day at the high school two years ago as an intimidating experience.
"I was scared," she said, noting that she had never been in the building before and was overwhelmed by its size at first.
She noticed that last year's sophomores, the first class to go through the BTT orientation program, entered school with more confidence than she and her classmates did on the first day of high school. Hamm wanted to be a part of the process that would help this year's sophomores feel at ease as they began high school.
As a BTT member, Hamm and another mentor, Brittany Hoffmann, a junior, paired up and took a group of about 20 students to the cafeteria to discuss class schedules, the building layout, clubs and activities, and other concerns the sophomores had. They gave each student a map and a highlighter so they could explore the building and find their classrooms in a more relaxed atmosphere than they would be in on the first day of school.
BTT members are available all year to assist sophomores in accessing resources in the high school, to answer questions, and to offer support.