Transition crucial for incoming freshmen

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, July 30, 2009

The start of school is still be a month away, but Suffolk’s three public high schools are busy with back-to-school preparations, especially for the group of students seen to be at greatest risk — freshmen.

Throughout the middle of August, each of the schools – Lakeland, King’s Fork and Nansemond River – will hold freshman transition programs aimed at adjusting incoming freshmen to high school life.

“This gives students an opportunity to become more acclimated with the rigor of high school,” said Thomas Whitley, principal of Lakeland High School. “And I’m speaking of the academic rigor, as well as the social and emotional adjustments students need to make (them) transition successfully into high school.”

During the transition programs, educators will walk students through the halls of the schools, introduce them to faculty and staff members and tell them about the various extracurricular activities available at the school.

Nansemond River High School Principal Thomas McLemore said these transition programs are important in order to instill the importance of the students’ future academic careers.

“I really talk to them about the fact that everything has been important up until this point, but four years pass very quickly, and we want them to understand when they finish in four years there are going to be choices, whether it’s college, military or getting a job,” McLemore said. “That’s what we’re about is providing them choices in four years.”

The high schools launched the freshman transition program four years ago in an effort to help combat high dropout rates in the schools.

Suffolk’s dropout rate still hovers at 17 percent, but Lakeland Principal Thomas A. Whitley said he thinks the transition program is helping students, one step at a time.

“This is my 13th year at Lakeland, and certainly I have seen the freshmen transition program contribute to us positively,” he said. “It is tough to come from an atmosphere that really caters to you, and then suddenly you are solely responsible for doing what you need to do at all times. Our research points to the freshman year as the toughest for students, and this transition is one resource and step in the right direction.”

Lakeland’s ninth-grade transition program for students will be held Aug. 10-13 from 8 a.m. to noon. The parent-student orientation will be held on Aug. 6 at 6 p.m. Parents need to register students for the program.

King’s Fork High School will host “Project W.O.O.F,” which stands for Working On Our Future, Aug. 11-13, from 8 a.m. to noon. A parent-student orientation also will be held Aug. 11 at 8 a.m. Parents can call the school with any questions.

Nansemond River’s ninth-grade orientation will be held Aug. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Parents are encouraged to attend this program, but students must be registered by this Saturday.

“It’s really a time that they get all the attention they need,” McLemore said. “They learn about a lot of things that they are going to need.”