In addressing an assembly of anxious incoming freshmen representing the school class of 2017, the Red Bank Regional (RBR) Student Council President, Dan Lloyd, made them a promise. He stated, “You are going to have the best four years of your life,” adding, “This school has given me so much. It will be a lot of hard work but you guys can get it done.”
Their new principal, Risa Clay, encouraged them to get involved, and their Superintendent, Jim Stefankiewicz asked them to “just give us your best and we will be here to help you.” Freshman Academy Supervisor Suzanne Keller explained the concept of the Freshman Academy and gave them the schedule of the day. Then they were off.
The freshmen divided for the first time into their three house groups of maroon, gray and white-- for the RBR colors. They alternated meeting with the school’s Student to Student (STS) Peer Leaders, who gave them a student perspective on high school life and answered their many questions. They convened for a time in the school media center to collect and balance their many books and took their student I.D. pictures. Then, they traveled the school on a scavenger hunt designed to acquaint them with the rambling hallways of the vast two--story building, so much bigger than their middle schools Thus, they found the field house where they took several free throws (as instructed) on the basketball court, became acquainted with their principal when they sought her signature and learned where the attendance office was on their quest for a sample late pass. Finally, they were assisted by the STS peer leaders to undertake their most daunting task of all—opening their school locker for the first time.
Later, they were joined in the theatre by their parents where were treated to a rolling slide show of the day’s events and met with administration and staff to learn more about the Freshman Academy and RBR. Students, parents and staff then dined together on a barbeque dinner, a RBR tradition, to officially welcome the newcomers to the RBR community.
The Class of 2017 represents the seventh year RBR has operated its Freshman Academy which reduces the size of the freshman class by dividing it into three smaller houses. Students in these houses, which are heterogeneous mixes of the entire class, share the same teachers and core classes for most of the day. The houses have friendly competitions throughout the school year, to build camaraderie. (For instance, the house that amassed the most points in the scavenger hunt began the year with 50 bonus points!) Most importantly, their teachers have common teacher planning times to coordinate cross-curricular learning themes and keep abreast of student progress. The concept helps teachers to share information and increases their awareness so students don’t fall between the cracks in a large school. Research reports that a positive freshman year bodes well for future high school success.