LAFAYETTE — For some teenagers, first-day jitters grow exponentially when walking through the school doors as a high school freshman.
Butterflies might begin fluttering in the stomachs of Lafayette Parish freshmen on Aug. 15, but orientations planned this week at six high schools will seek to soothe those first-day woes.
At the sessions, students learn the ins and outs of the campus, what the rules are and more importantly, meet other “fish” in the same boat.
The orientations also center on fun.
“It’s all about building connections” said Sheila Monus, who has spent the past few years planning parish orientations. “If I can get the connections going, they’re going to want to come to school. It’s to encourage them to want to be here.”
Some schools dub their orientation “fish camp” with students left to define their own meaning of the term, Monus said.
“Freshmen In Senior High” or “Fresh Ideas Start Here” are two frequently used acronyms, Monus said.
Monus is on staff as a teacher in the STEM Academy for middle-school students housed on the David Thibodaux Career and Technical High School campus.
Because of her prior experience planning orientations, she coordinated Thibodaux’s first FISH Camp on Monday and Tuesday.
Thibodaux is the district’s newest high school.
It started last year at a temporary location at Acadiana Technical College, and begins the new school year in a home of its own: the former N.P. Moss Middle School site on Teurlings Drive.
At least 230 students — freshmen and sophomores — are enrolled in the high school.
Over the next two years, the campus will add a grade level as this year’s sophomores advance.
More than half of the students attended FISH Camp, Monus said as students began a hula hoop tournament.
Research has linked freshmen retention to high school graduation rates.
Events such as orientation help create a positive school culture and set the tone for the year, said Jeff Debetaz, Thibodaux’s principal.
“I think it promotes teamwork … but to me the most important thing as a new school is the development of a positive school culture,” Debetaz said.
“It’s a chance to let students see that we have to work hard and sometimes we can roll up our sleeves and have a little fun,” he said.
The day is heavy on the fun of building student relationships, but the event also offers practical information to help students grow familiar with their new campus.
“They learn their schedules, where their classes are,” Monus said. “It’s a real advantage to the student.”
Another good thing: Come Aug. 15, the majority of students will know each other, said Des’ree Zenon, a returning 10th-grade student at Thibodaux.
Zenon said her first-day jitters were quelled last year because of small class sizes.
“It was a very awesome year,” she said of her freshmen experience at the new high school. “The teachers really helped us.”
Rhyan Burt-Gautreaux’s first impression of his new school: “The campus is cool.”
Burt-Gautreaux attended Carencro High last year and will start at Thibodaux in August with an interest in learning more about criminal justice.
While she’s not nervous about his first day at a new school, Falyn Rieker knows the butterflies will come even though she made new friends at the orientation.
“It’s the first day of high school. It’s a new school and new people,” she said.
The high school offers students an opportunity to study careers that interest them and earn a high school diploma in tandem with college credit and industry-based certification.
The school appealed to Rieker, who was zoned for Carencro High, because of her interest in cosmetology.
The school offers a chance to go from high school to a job in her field without any lag time, she said.