NEWINGTON - As they weaved through the hallways and peered up at plaques lining the walls, Newington High School’s incoming freshman had mixed emotions.
“There’s a lot of stairs and turns,” Alex Daha said.
“It’s big,” Hannah DeMarco added, before the girls headed up the stairwell to the second floor along with their tour group.
A total of 285 students - about 85 percent of the incoming class - took part in Freshman Orientation last week. Fliers were mailed out to all 334 families, but participation was voluntary.
“Some folks are on vacation, though we have pretty high attendance,” said Stoddard House Principal Sean Colley, who ran the event.
The day began at 9 a.m. sharp and didn’t wrap up until about 2 in the afternoon. Within that time frame, 14- and 15-year-olds loosened the grip on their past lives and became acquainted with the place where they would be spending the next four years.
The first day of school in Newington was Wednesday, Aug. 29.
“What are you going to do to maximize your time here?” was the question Colley asked them to ponder as he guided youngsters through each wing and went over school policies, extracurricular activities and expectations.
Students also had an opportunity to meet NHS Student Council and DECA members. From these elder classmates, they learned about fun enrichment activities they could take part in.
“We just want to get the kids acquainted to the high school and make them feel less anxious about the transition,” Doran House Principal Mario Ficocelli pointed out.
School counselor Jessica Slater guided her group through several exercises inside a second-floor classroom. She asked them to line up in order of their birthdays. This sounded simple at first, until the catch was revealed: “No talking.”
Within just a few minutes a line had formed in front of desks. As birthdays were called out in sequential order, a few slipped into different spots.
“This is your new beginning,” Slater told them. “It’s a really exciting four years and there’s nothing like feeling confident when you do it.”
Next, students were asked to introduce themselves to someone they didn’t know. Since there are two middle schools in town, running into new faces at orientation is common.
Staff went over what was expected of them, from being on time to school to good behavior.
For example, parents are the only ones who can excuse absences, no later than 9 a.m. the day their child will be out. Also, those who wish to participate in sports or clubs after school must be present for more than half the day.
Finally, schedules in hand, the newcomers found their classrooms and lockers and mapped out the quickest routes between places. This might have been just the thing some needed to calm their nerves.
“I’m looking forward to the high school experience,” Isabela Dioliveira said.
Gavin Davis still wasn’t so sure.
“I feel like it might be a little too much work but I don’t know,” he said.
“I want to go back to elementary school,” Frank Doci piped up.
Slater assured them every staff member in the community was a beacon of support.
“You have a lot of people around here who want to see you succeed, so keep expectations high for yourself.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.