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Q&A about LHS's Bridge Program for incoming freshmen
For four years now, Lincoln High School has helped incoming freshmen acquaint themselves with the school building before school starts. Kim Szelag, Small Learning Community grant coordinator for LHS, talks about the program, how it has changed and what the goals are for students and staff.
What are the goals of the Bridge Program, and how do you achieve those goals?
The goals of the Bridge Program truly reflect our district's goals of closing the achievement gaps, raising the graduation rates and increasing student achievement. Much of the research that our committee selected to read prior to initiating the program demonstrated that students who feel connected to school are more likely to stay in school through graduation. We want freshmen walking into Lincoln High School for the first day of high school classes to feel as if they are already familiar with their surroundings, are acquainted with at least 100 other people and know how to navigate our large campus.
We achieve this goal by inviting a wide variety of eighth-grade students from surrounding middle schools to attend our Summer Bridge Program. We make contact with our future Links by going to middle schools in January through March of each school year. We have produced a brochure that we hand out and we ask interested students to sign up. Then we then mail them information with dates, etc. toward the end of each school year. We also have a video that we re-produce each year demonstrating some of the activities that we offer during the four-day program and in this way, prospective Links can see what their friends were doing here the previous year. It's really wonderful to watch current eighth-grade students as they recognize friends from the previous year! We also offer information during our school's eighth-grade open house night on our campus.
During the actual program, which runs from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for 4 days, we have team building activities for large and small teams, we have a tour of the buildings that is hosted by participants from the previous year, we have an Amazing Race competition, we make a banner, we visit Lighthouse and we take two days to do some high-rope and low-rope team building activities which the students really enjoy. At the end of day one, we have a picnic that is open to the entire family and is almost entirely funded through community donations. Lincoln businesses have really stepped up to help us with this program.
What kind of feedback do you get from students or parents that indicate the positive impact the program has on students?
All of the feedback we receive is very positive. The first two years, many parents told us that they wish there had been a program like this in place for older siblings that have gone to Lincoln High. Students tell us that the activities are great, especially the ropes courses and the Amazing Race competition. They also tell us that they aren't scared about how to get to their classes or who to ask for help when needed. They meet some of the teachers who generously help us out, and that eases some of their anxiety also.
How has this program improved since it started four years ago? What changes have been made?
Once it was decided that we were going to implement this program, a committee of teachers and administrators was immediately formed. We all had great ideas and talents and worked well together. The first year of any new program had a few wrinkles that have to be ironed out the next year but truly, they were minimal for us - more along the lines of documentation (bus permission slips and making sure they were with the right group of kids, etc.) We had a scavenger hunt the first two years but switched to the Amazing Race two years ago and we think that is the way we will go now as students seem to relate to it more. We had our picnic outside the first two years and trying to fight the heat was not pleasant. Last year, we brought
it inside and enjoy the benefits of our air conditioned cafeteria now and that has made for a much smoother transition between activities and lunch for us.
All of the original committee members return each year and our roles have remained the same. We all know what needs to get done and we have each other’s backs whenever needed.
What are the issues that make most freshmen nervous during that first day and first week of high school?
I think that all of us fear the unknown on some level. With freshmen, they seem to worry about issues like: What are my teachers like? Am I going to remember my locker combination? Am I going to be able to find my Science class in the South building? Will I make new friends? Where do I go to change my schedule? Where do I go to get involved in music, drama, arts, etc.? How can I be successful? The Summer Bridge program addresses all of these questions by providing opportunities to meet some of their teachers in a relaxed and fun environment. We give a tour of the buildings and then reinforce that with the Amazing Race. We show them the counseling office. We mention the many clubs available at Lincoln High School and ask them to listen for the Club signup day on our daily announcements. We allow them opportunities to meet other students with our team building activities and
most of all, we make them all feel welcome to Lincoln High School.
Published: August 13, 2012
Updated: August 13, 2012