TROY — There may be no more daunting task for a teenager than walking through the front doors of high school the first day of their freshman year and finding it filled with upperclassmen.
Troy High School is making that transition a little easier for freshmen, however. For the second year in a row, THS began the school year with a Freshman Focus Day, which allowed ninth graders one day to get acclimated to the school without the presence of sophomores, juniors or seniors.
“We had the idea during the 2019-2020 school year,” Troy High School Principal Dave Dilbone said. “We talked to some schools who had implemented a ‘Freshman Focus Day’ and thought that it could really help us welcome the newest members of the THS Trojan Family. After much thought and dialogue, we kicked off the first Freshman Focus Day for the 2021-2022 school year. Some of the ideas for the day came from other schools, while some of the ideas were new and unique to THS. We wanted it to have a Trojan Family spin on it.”
Wednesday, Aug. 24, the start date for the other eight school buildings in the district, only freshmen reported to Troy High School. They had the opportunity to spend a day finding their classrooms and meeting their teachers, learning the ins and outs of high school from guidance counselors and a panel of senior representatives, attending an activities fair and going to their first high school pep rally. Grades 10-12 began school Thursday.
“The Freshman Focus Day provides a springboard for our students to have a smooth and successful transition to student life at THS,” Dilbone said. “This day, focused solely on our freshmen students, allows us to lay the foundation for a positive high school experience and expose our students to the many clubs, organizations and activities available to them as a member of the Trojan Family. Our desired outcomes are increased student engagement in academics and increased student engagement in athletics/clubs/activities.
“It is an excellent way to welcome the newest members of the THS Trojan Family. My favorite part is hearing the adults here at THS tell our students what they like/love about this place and why they do what they do. I heard several of these conversations yesterday and it was awesome!”
One of the highlights of the day was an activities fair that saw 42 different sports, clubs and organizations set up tables in the auxiliary gymnasium and allow freshmen to learn more about any in which they might be interested.
“Kudos to the business club for winning the Principal’s Choice Award for Best Table at the Activities Fair,” Dilbone said. “They had a blind folded game of Pin the Tie on Mr. Dilbone!”
The freshman also had the opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, a senior leadership panel that included Hannah Duff, Hallie Frigge, Connor Moeller, Kara Steinke and Sophia Walker.
Dilbone said last year’s event was very well-received and anticipates this year’s Freshman Focus Day will be as well.
“We surveyed the students and staff last year and are doing the same this year,” he said. “Last year’s results showed that 94% of the staff rated the Freshman Focus Day a four or five out of five. Eighty percent of our students rated the day a four or five out of five. This is great positive feedback and an indicator of a successful first year. I am looking forward to seeing this year’s survey results. I have also had several parents reach out to share how much they appreciate that we have a day that just focuses on our freshmen students.”
DIlbone said he and his staff learned from the first year and made some adjustments for this year’s Freshman Focus Day. He envisions the event continuing to evolve and grow in the coming years.
“We learned a lot last year and made a few adjustments based on feedback from students and staff,” he said. “Our morning meeting with the THS administrative team was reduced from 40 to 20 minutes. This year, our classes each had an assigned activity, ranging from a historical tour of THS to a visit to the THS library. We also added meetings with the guidance counselors to cover important info about scheduling and graduation. Lastly, we added a pep rally at the end of the day where we taught them the fight song and sang the alma mater arm-in-arm as one big Trojan Family.”
The writer is the director of communications for Troy City Schools.