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Sixth-graders, freshmen in Washington County get head start on school

August 20, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Kiana Cotledge's first day of middle school is today, but the 11-year-old said she isn't worried.

She's excited about her new school, Springfield Middle, and about making new friends she didn't meet as a student at Emma K. Doub.

Kiana, a sixth-grader, has only one concern -- remembering her locker combination.

"It might be hard to remember," she said. "And I forget a lot of things."

Tips on remembering combinations, navigating the halls and other helpful information were offered to Kiana and other sixth-graders during a program Tuesday at the school.

All middle and high schools in Washington County hosted orientations Tuesday that matched older students with younger ones.

A program called Link Crew is at county high schools, and is one of two similar initiatives to help younger students transition into their new schools, said Carol Costello, supervisor of alternative programs and student services. Where Everybody Belongs (WEB), at county middle schools, pairs eighth-graders with incoming sixth-graders.

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This is the second year the programs have been in place. Older students participated in a one-day training last week to prepare for Tuesday's orientation.

School begins today for Washington County Public Schools students.

Though Tuesday's orientation was not mandatory, Costello said most sixth- and ninth-graders chose to participate.

Kiana said she is nervous about making new friends and thinks homework will be harder in middle school.

"I might have to focus a lot more," she said.

Natalie Rudisill, 12, an eighth-grader mentoring sixth-grade students at Springfield Middle School, said older students are mentors for younger students throughout the school year. On Tuesday, they participated in games to get to know each other and took younger students on a tour of their new school.

Natalie said eighth-graders also offered advice to incoming sixth-graders.

"Stay away from bullies and the wrong crowd, and just be nice overall," she said.

Chris McSherry, 17, a senior at Williamsport High School, said he's hoping to be a role model for the school's freshman class.

"Everyone was a freshman at some point," he said.

Tuesday's activities will make the students feel more comfortable in their new school, Chris said.

"This is a great program," he said. "I wish I had this (as a freshman)."

Heather Price, 14, a freshman at Williamsport High, said she expects her two "Link leaders" can help her during the school year if she needs it.

"Some people might need more help," she said. "But others might be more confident. But you have someone to go to if you need anything."

Renee Barnes, 13, said that as a freshman, her student mentors helped her understand Williamsport High's sports seasons.

Renee is interested in soccer and track.

"They knew the answers," she said of her mentors. "They've experienced high school."

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