Eyes alight with wonder paraded through the halls of Elmira District Secondary School Jan. 13. The school hosted its annual Grade 8 night, to begin the orientation of the Grade 9 class of 2011. Art Wombwell, the school’s guidance counsellor, said the transition process, which consists of about four stages, is important to helping the new students succeed in their first year.
“It’s so invigorating to appreciate the energy that comes into this place when our new Grade 9 class arrives and this is just a bit of foretaste of what that’s like,” he said. “These kids are so keen to be here and so keen to be excited about high school and we’re providing them an opportunity to display that.”
What Wombwell termed a small army helped him to put together the event, which introduced prospective students and their parents to the school and helped answer questions about electives and the registration process.
Grade 11 student Candace Kuepfer was one of about 28 volunteers leading the new students around.
“I remember my Grade 8 night and I remember how nerve-racking it was and to just be able to make the Grade 8s feel as welcome as they can from a student’s perspective is, I think, really important,” she said.
Both Wombwell and Kuepfer believe one of the key ingredients to success at EDSS is the level of involvement students have at the school. They hoped to pass that message on to the incoming cohort.
“The difference that we observe as students move from junior students to senior students, when they choose put themselves out there and get involved, is like black and white to full colour. We want every student to have a full colour experience here,” said Wombwell.
The full-colour experience message translated well to many students, who were excited to get a preview of next school year.
Jessica Campbell, a 13-year-old from Conestogo Public School, isn’t nervous about starting Grade 9 and enjoyed the chance to look at her new school.
“It was educational and fun,” she said. “I really like music so I’m looking forward to taking music.”
Not every student was as at ease with the process, especially after a presentation about the importance of picking course levels – applied or academic – in the first year.
“I’m scared that I’m going to get to Grade 12 and realize I should have taken something in Grade 9 that will get me where I want to be,” said Brittany Macdonald, from Linwood Public School.
Although, Wombwell stressed the choices a student makes for Grade 9 does not mean they are stuck with them for the full four years, he did mention it was hard to switch until after the Grade 9 year was completed.
Academic fears aside, fifth-year student Jordan Siroki said the incoming class should not be apprehensive about coming to school next year.
“There are no initiations that happen at this school. ‘Grade 9s, do not be afraid when you come to this school, at all,’” he said.
The positive message of inclusion permeated the night leaving both students and parents with smiles.
“There’s unbelievable potential that comes through these doors and I can just hardly wait for it to happen,” said Wombwell.