Boot camps make transition to high school easier - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Back To School

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Posted: Friday, July 22, 2011 5:00 pm

Incoming freshmen at Ahwatukee Foothills high schools will have a little extra time to help ease the transition and gather their bearings in the buildings where they will be spending much of the next four years.

Mountain Pointe’s Boot Camp and Desert Vista’s Thunder Day programs are both designed to bring freshmen in before the school year actually begins and orient them with the campus, their classmates and expectations in a low-pressure environment.

“We want to try to really focus on the incoming freshmen and give them some confidence of being in high school right from the start,” said math teacher Tony Ramseyer, who has been teaching at Mountain Pointe for 18 years.

Ramseyer is one of the close to 30 teachers and 60 student mentors who will report to the school at 8 a.m. to volunteer their time for the two-day Boot Camp Aug. 4 and 5. The class of close to 700 will be split up into groups of around 25 students with one teacher and two mentors.

Principal Bruce Kipper said the school started the program because they wanted to be proactive about the success of their incoming students and felt there was a real need.

“Kids were coming in and they didn’t seem to have the same type of study skills, the same type of organizational skills,” Kipper said.

The program aims to help students understand and meet the expectations of high school by teaching them team-building, time-management and organizational skills. They are also shown how to utilize the school handbook every student receives, which covers everything from rules and regulations to an academic calender.

“Organization is huge,” said Ramseyer, who added that “if they’re organized and motivated to learn then the sky is the limit.”

While much of the Boot Camp focuses on academics, other aspects intrinsic to the high school experience are not forgotten. The time gives students an opportunity to start building relationships and making friends. An assembly in the afternoon introduces them to the various sports and clubs offered in the hopes that they will find their niche. A scavenger hunt is held to help students learn their way around the campus.

“They get to meet people and see everyone is just like them,” Kipper said. “Everybody is in the same boat - everyone is nervous about high school.”

The two-day Boot Camp costs close to $15,000 and is funded by a grant from the Tempe Education Foundation as well as contributions from departments who had money left over in their budgets.

Students meet again in their groups throughout the year to discuss their progress and important events such as mid-term exams.

This will be the second year the camp has existed and the school is expecting every incoming freshman to attend.

Desert Vista will be hosting its third freshman orientation, known as Thunder Day, on Aug. 5 and students will check in at the gym at 8:20 a.m. From there they will follow their class schedule for the upcoming school year, spending 15 minutes in each room learning a different skill, such as note taking and how to use their school-issued binder. The one-day orientation is finished off with a dance.

“They are really excited about being here, knowing people and utilizing the skills. Monday is not the worry that it was in the past,” Principal Anna Battle said.

Desert Vista will also host a meeting for parents in order to help them make the transition with their kids. Among other things, parents will learn about homework expectations, extracurricular activities and accessing schedules and grades online.

Despite the differences between Thunder Day and Boot Camp, the goals are very much the same. Both want to start students on the right track by ensuring that they understand the expectations of their schools as well as strategies to meet them.

Doing this before school begins means that students can head into their future prepared and confident.

“The sooner they are comfortable, the sooner they can be successful,” Kipper said.

• Morgan Sailor is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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