Freshman bonding program aids transition to virtual high school

Story by Lilian Zhu
Staff Writer

Over 160 ninth graders attended the ASB Wellness Team’s first freshman bonding event on Thursday, Jan. 24, which debuted a larger program aimed to promote acceptance among students new to SPHS. 

The freshman split up into mentorship groups with two upperclassmen leaders, who will be part of the ninth graders’ high school support system, especially crucial with distance learning’s added stressors and isolation.

“Being in a smaller group of freshmen in the same situation as me really helped me feel more support,” freshman Twyla Metcalfe said. “Navigating high school virtually can be really difficult but this event helped me learn more about my peers and helped me bond more with my counselor.”

The school counselors and social worker Natasha Prime opened the event with an introduction explaining their positions at SPHS. Afterwards, students competed in  get-to-know-you Kahoots about their counselor.

“We feel the need to create a balance for students which involves tending to social-emotional concerns that are equally as vital as academic needs,” counselor Tracy Ishimaru said. “Connection is important for the well-being of the students and to also know that there are people, adults and peers alike, who will help and support them at the school.”

The Wellness Team hopes to provide insight and resources for any academic, social-emotional, and career or college concerns they may have. 

“Even if the event was a bit rushed, we were able to cover all the topics and information we wanted to in this meeting,” senior and Wellness Team member Tonalli Garcia-Rodriguez said. “The freshmen were able to connect more with their counselors and group leaders. As the program progresses, they will feel more connected with SPHS and their peers, so that they have a strong support system to call upon.”

In the second half of the event, freshmen bonded with their mentorship groups by playing online games and activities such as, Among Us, and Hot Seat. The upperclassmen interaction with ninth graders was designed to mirror SPMS’ well-established Where Everyone Belongs (WEB) program.

“I did WEB in eighth grade and remembered how fun it was to pass down knowledge I had acquired throughout middle school to the new sixth graders,” senior leader Amelia Jarolim said. “I hope that the bonding program helps the freshmen this year feel more comfortable reaching out if they ever need any help throughout their high school endeavors.”

The freshman bonding program will continue for the remainder of the semester, as groups will meet monthly and cover different topics about navigating high school. 

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