Class of 2017 gets introduction to Windham High School

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Tue., Aug. 20, 2013
Incoming Windham High School freshman Tyrique Cooper checks in at freshman orien
Incoming Windham High School freshman Tyrique Cooper checks in at freshman orientation on Aug. 19. Looking on is social studies teacher Randall Prose. Photos by Melanie Savage.

There were mixed emotions as Windham High School students arrived for the first half of freshman orientation on Aug. 19. Though breakfast officially started at 8 a.m., “When I got here at 7:15 there were already freshmen sitting outside on the wall,” said Dara Bowling, an English teacher at the Windham High School Academy of Humanities and Arts, who was helping to staff the event. “A lot of people are very excited, but a little nervous too,” said Bowling. Which is why the school enlists the assistance of student ambassadors - older students who not only help to facilitate activities, but who are there to provide needed moral support. Ambassadors “remember what it was like on the first day,” said Bowling.

Sophomores Anna Kandolin and Cyan Green waited in the school gymnasium with other ambassadors while the freshmen listened to an introductory talk in the auditorium. The pair was working on one of a series of skits designed to introduce students to aspects of school culture: attendance, behavior, uniforms, electronics and hats, climate (school pride), preparedness and language.

Kandolin said that she volunteered for the day because a favorite teacher had asked for help. Green is a member of the drama department, “And I wanted to try to recruit more people and talk about it,” she said. The pair clearly remembered the uncomfortable feeling of walking into a new, large school the year before.

“For me, I didn’t know anyone,” said Kandolin. Fortunately, she met a girl named Emily her first day in the cafeteria. “She waved me over and we’ve been friends ever since,” said Kandolin.

“When I first walked in, it was kind of intimidating,” recalled Green. Her approach was to look for a friend from middle school. “And the seniors end up taking care of you too,” said Green.

Both girls advised involvement in sports, band or other extra-curricular activities. “Then you have a group of friends to be there for you,” said Kandolin.

As they awaited the freshmen, the sophomores said that their goal would be to make the younger students feel more at ease. “We want them to feel comfortable, and we want them to participate in activities,” said Green.

Walking to the gymnasium after their morning introduction, incoming freshmen Shelbie Ruppel and Kianna Mayes said that they were feeling “really nervous” about attending the new school. Friends from middle school, the pair both hoped to participate in the cheerleading program at Windham High School. They were concerned about the sheer size of the new building.

“I just hope not to get lost,” said Mayes. They worried about ubiquitous freshman hazing rumors. But the pair, both scheduled to attend the Academy of Humanities and Arts, took comfort in their friendship, and in what they’d seen thus far of their new school.

“It looks like a good school,” said Ruppel.

The two-day Windham High School freshman orientation was designed to “get them into the building and help them get used to their surroundings,” said Bowling. “It’s a huge building. It’s scary when you’re coming in as a freshman.” The event was also intended to begin forming a bond between members of the Class of 2017. Though the new students are enrolled within two different academies - Humanities and Arts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) - “What we really try to help the kids understand is that they are two parts of a whole,” said Bowling. “They are not two academies in competition with each other.”

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