Looking for ways to motivate new students and develop class camaraderie, Monett High School is introducing a Freshman Academy. Counselor Princess Fox described the program for members of the Monett Kiwanis Club at their July 21 meeting.
Academically, the transition for eighth graders starting high school is not a great change, Fox said. Socially, students have a major leap to make. The first 30 days are very important for freshmen students. The Freshman Academy offers a different way to provide a running start, Fox said. The effort will start on Aug. 11 with freshmen orientation.
During the academy, an effort is made to bond the freshmen together into a social group. The academy is held in a separate wing of the high school. Slogans are placed above classroom doors, and students' pictures are put over their lockers.
All the core classes freshmen take will be held in the same wing of the building to maximize contact. Fox said the effort focuses on building cohesiveness between the students and helps the students get to know each other.
Teachers also will be participating in the effort. While meeting last week to develop a mission statement, teachers agreed their main focus would be on developing positive relationships between students and teachers. Encouraging a spirit and loyalty as a class was felt to be a way to pull students together, thus building a loyalty to the group and a sense of belonging.
This class bonding would in turn encourage students to stay together and graduate as a group, Fox said.
Principal David Steward, who served as program chairman for the Kiwanis meeting, said 86 percent of freshmen who start together graduate. Those who shift to home schools are considered transfers. Those who quit and later get GED certificates to complete their education are nonetheless considered dropouts.
Having core classes in the same wing will enable teachers to keep better track for students, Fox said. Information can flow better between teachers as well. Fox said if a student is having difficulty in one subject, another teacher may be able to shape an exercise in another subject that can overlap the disciplines, stimulate interest and show the value in learning both.
Students who fall behind will have juniors and seniors available to act as tutors. Three days a week students will be put in a setting with older students where tutoring can be done. An academic lab will be available for learning experiences as well.
In an effort to work more closely with the Southwest Area Career Center, freshmen this year will get to go to the Career Center every other Wednesday. By sampling the 13 courses offered at the Career Center, Fox said, students will have a chance to see options available to them. Career and technical training will be another approach they can take rather than dropping out.
Assisting in the Freshman Academy will be teachers Sue Doennig in communication arts, Kara Tinklepaugh in science, Jeremy Wilson in history, Amy Dixon in math, and Ty Goetz and Shyrah Boyle, health and physical education teachers.
A hot dog feed is planned for parents at the beginning of the orientation. Fox said there are hopes to engage parents more with the educational process and in working with teachers.
Kiwanis President Lisa Balmas presided at the meeting.
The Monett Kiwanis Club meets every Tuesday for a meal and a program at Happy House restaurant.