McCreary County rolls out the welcome – and the information – for incoming freshmen
Kentucky School Advocate
By Madelynn Coldiron
The U.S. Congress may not be able to agree on the topic of immigration, but McCreary County Central High School has no trouble assimilating its newcomers in the form of incoming freshmen.
Raider Nation Immigration – the title refers to the school’s mascot – is the high school’s way of making sure rising ninth-graders are up to speed in every way when they arrive in the fall, in both academics and extracurriculars.
Photo: With help from JROTC members, eighth-grader Sebastian Cruz tries out the rope bridge at the McCreary Central High JROTC setup outside the school gym.
The centerpiece is a day set aside toward the end of the school year for eighth-graders, when they descend in organized fashion on the high school gym to visit 21 display tables, each highlighting an academic subject, career and technical course, or extracurricular activity. Small groups of students are given five minutes at a display before music signals their move to the adjacent table. Because of the size of the class, half the eighth-graders participate in the morning, with the other half coming in the afternoon.
“The transition from eighth grade to high school is already scary for a lot of kids. This seems to take away a lot of that apprehension – it reduces stress,” said Bill Simpson, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at McCreary County Middle School.
Middle school Principal Clint Taylor said the event also “fits in really well” with the emphasis on college and career readiness.
At this year’s Raider Immigration Nation, rising freshmen heard advice like:
“If you like math, I really suggest you go into engineering.”
“In the art class, if you don’t know how to draw, (the teacher) will teach you how to draw.”
“You guys want to learn how to do CPR?”
But they didn’t hear those tidbits from teachers or administrators; instead, it was high school upperclassmen with enthusiasm for their subjects who were stationed at the display tables. The older students explained the sequence of courses in the subject areas, showed examples of their work, talked up clubs, gave advice and answered questions.
“We’ve had an incredible response,” said junior Rachel Wells, who worked at the engineering display, which featured a working 3-D printer and small robot. She said she hopes to inspire these new students to go into the field the way she was inspired by a teacher.
Britney Stephens, who did some sketching with encouragement from high school students at the art table, said she was excited. “I loved it,” she said, “They are very talented here.”
The high school students also learned some lessons.
“It makes me realize more of what my teachers go through.” said McKayla Hamlin, who worked the Health Occupation Students of America display. She and Kelsie Brown gave lessons in CPR, and showed eighth-graders how to measure their oxygen levels and listen to their heart beat. “It’s good to be teaching something I care about so much,” added Hamlin, who wants to be a doctor.
Charlotte Coffey, assistant principal at the high school, said the idea behind Raider Nation Immigration is to ensure incoming freshmen know up front all the opportunities the school offers. It also helps motivate students, she said.
“You’ve got to get them early, you’ve got to find something that they’re interested in and get them focused on something extracurricular and career pathways that interest them,” Coffey said.
Eighty-five percent of the eighth-graders surveyed afterward said the event helped them realize what programs and opportunities were available at the high school, and three-quarters of them learned about a program they previously weren’t aware of.
Parents join in
The event didn’t end with the close of the school day, however. Parents were able to come in with their children from 4-6 p.m. to make the rounds of the displays, now including teachers, and tour the school’s career and technical wing. They also picked up PLAN scores, a lengthy course guide and a planning sheet for selecting classes for the first year of high school.
Simpson, the eighth-grade teacher, said combining the displays with the scheduling gives students ideas, “instead of just reading something off a page.”
Eighth-grader Christian Maxfield couldn’t wait to bring his parents, Beth and Mike, to see the engineering display.
“He got so excited – ‘Come on, hurry, we need to get there,’” Beth Maxfield said. “This looks like it would be something right up his alley.”
Raider Nation Immigration is not the only event for the incoming freshmen. The high school holds an orientation before school starts, with tours, a cookout, student skits and discussions about goal-setting and discipline. A new feature for 2015-16, Coffey said, is the addition of a student mentor for each freshman, with the students matched based on their interests.