July 6, 2007

Making high school a little bit less scary for freshmen

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

For many students, the transition from middle school to high school can be very difficult.

But for a group of 120 students from San Ysidro, the experience won’t be as scary thanks to a unique program at San Ysidro High School that helps them become familiar with their future school.

The Cougar Camp, which took place this week, is a pilot program put out by San Ysidro High teachers to assist in-coming students from San Ysidro Middle School (SYMS) and Oceanview Hills School with the big leap to a high school environment.

“One of our goals was to make them feel less overwhelmed in high school,” said resource teacher Julissa Gracias, one of the organizers of the camp.

English teacher Patricia Perez explains to her students some of the school regulations at San Ysidro High during the Cougar Camp this week.

During the camp, which took place during summer break, students participated in outdoor activities, they had workshops where they learned about school rules and regulations, and even had a fashion show.

The response from students was great, said Kelly Walker, a bilingual social science teacher at San Ysidro High.

“The first day the students were all participating, dancing, talking to each other,” she said. “It’s been an awesome experience for them and for us as teachers as well.”

School officials said that by increasing awareness for both students and parents of the high school culture and the services and resources available, they can increase retention and graduation numbers due to the empowerment of both parties.

Students also received introductory computer skills, such as how to surf the web and complete an online survey.

They also learnt about graduation requirements, high school exit exam formats, and the classes they need to take to prepare for college.

San Ysidro High School has about 2,300 students, and 90 percent of the student body is of Mexican and Latino descent.

SYMS graduate Abel Herrera said that he likes it’s a bigger school than his middle school.

“I’m seeing a lot of new faces,” he said.

Tenth grader Emma Barcenas was one of many San Ysidro High students that volunteered to welcome the new students to campus. Emma and her classmates helped with the organization of activities and gave presentations about their experience during their freshman year in high school.

“I want to help these students overcome all the obstacles of the first year,” said the 14 year old student. “I wanted to let them know that there’s help when they get here.”

The Cougar Camp was made possible thanks to donations from businesses in the community, including Wal-Mart, Vons, and Community Health Group.

Being a year-round school, San Ysidro’s High 2007-2008 school years begins on July 16th. Parent Norma Gutierrez was on campus to support her daughter, María Muñoz.

Gutierrez said that she was glad the school organized an event like this for students and parents.

“It’s difficult for us parents to see our children moving on to a new place with older kids,” she said. “But I’ll be here for her.”

Shirleyn Perez, a SYMS graduate, said she was a bit overwhelmed by the bigger campus.

“I came to the camp because I wanted to learn where everything was and not get lost on the first day of school,” she said.

Although she said she was nervous, now she’s looking forward to her new school.

“It’s a new stage in my life. It’s exciting,” Shirleyn said.

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