Back to school

Preparing students for the upcoming school year

PHOTO PROVIDED Students from South Williamsport High School go over the yearbook layout.

With the upcoming school year starting soon, students are beginning to stock up on pencils, notebooks and folders. In addition to the classic supplies to prepare for school, local schools share different ways for students, and parents, to be prepared for the new school year.

For freshmen entering high school, “there is a transition that many students on the whole are not prepared for. There’s a transition from that elementary level to the intermediate junior-high level, and then again to that high-school level, and I think it’s a big step socially, emotionally and educationally … that the kids are not expecting,” said Jennifer McPherson, director of guidance at St. John Neumann Regional Academy (SJNRA).

Prior to entering SJNRA High School, students’ transcripts are looked over to determine their educational track — honors or academic, said Kathy Bahr, development director at SJNRA. During the month of September, this track can be changed for what is best suited for the student. If a student is enrolled in the academic track and it seems too easy, they can switch to the honors track.

“The best thing we can do as a school is communicate with the parents, with the families, what we see … going on with the child in the classroom during the school year and how the parent can help us to help their child be ready for the next school year,” Bahr said.

Freshman at SJNRA had the opportunity to shadow with their current class and spend the day in the

classrooms and meet new students, Bahr said. They also will have an orientation day in August going over the dress code, showing kids their schedules and a walk-through of a typical day.

Williamsport Area High School (WAHS) also has a new student orientation open to incoming freshman and new students to ensure they know where their first class is for the first day back to school, said Brandon Pardoe, principal at WAHS. The school had an open house in spring for students and parents to have a tour of the building.

There is a transition program at WAHS for incoming freshmen where students go to Camp Susque for team building with teachers and students and do a QR code scavenger hunt at the school to familiarize themselves with the building, Pardoe said.

Before students — freshman, sophomores, juniors and senior — get to class on their first day, make sure to have an agenda or homework folder to help keep organized and up to date with assignments, said Jesse Smith, principal at South Williamsport High School. At SJNRA, students should bring a rosary and Bible for their Theology courses, McPherson said.

SJNRA sent out a newsletter to families of juniors and seniors about upcoming fall events such as Back to College Night, the Catholic College Tour and Career Exploration, McPherson said.

The Catholic College Tour is held during the first week of October and 20 to 25 Catholic colleges from the region set up enrollment information for sophomores, juniors and seniors to connect with admissions counselors, Bahr said.

South Williamsport High School is holding Career Exploration on Sept. 26 for students interested in employment, the military or apprenticeships after high school graduation, McPherson added.

WAHS also will hold a career fair in March where local industries and universities visit the school for all students to begin looking into future opportunities, Pardoe said.

For juniors unsure of their next step after graduation, talk with your parent or guardian to express what you are thinking. Connect with faculty at school, such as school counselors or a career counselor, to see what jobs or career paths you are interested in to see what you need to get where you want to be, Pardoe said. Also, if you are interested in a career that would be within the school district, they can connect students with that profession.

“Our goal is to make sure our students are career- and life-ready when they leave the high school,” Pardoe said. “Especially when they enter their junior and senior years, students are at a crossroad and they need to know what is next for them.”

For college-bound seniors, the school recommends to make sure they have taken their SATs, ACTs and have visited schools, as the college application process begins in October, Pardoe said. During that month, students need to get their applications prepared and teacher recommendations.

Continued education, though, is not the only post-graduation option. If a student feels career-ready, the school wants to make sure the students have employable skills, such as skilled labor, Pardoe said. Another option for students is entering into the military because there is a need for truck drivers, culinary chefs, carpenters, engineers and soldiers.

“Enjoy every single day of your senior year,” Smith said.

After graduation, life becomes much more independent, Smith said. Don’t limit yourself throughout high school and try new things like joining a new club, organization or attending football games because you’ll make new friends and gain new experiences.

“Many people can go back and reflect upon their high school experience, and one of the things I’ve learned about being at the high-school level is … once you complete your years in high school, there is no redo button,” Pardoe said. “Get involved when you step into a high school because it’s an experience that you can never replicate again in your life.”

At Williamsport Area High School, there are over 40 clubs and activities students can get involved in, ranging from Aquarium Club, Key Club and Magic Club in addition to various programs offered like their music and athletics program, Pardoe said. Joining different clubs and organizations creates diversity and a sense of belonging.

“We want (students) to be able to connect, to get that full high school experience so they don’t leave high school saying ‘I wish I would have … ‘,” Pardoe said. “It’s never too late to get involved in your school.”

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