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New Randall Middle School students learned about their new home for the next three years during a three-day camp at the Lithia school.

Camps provide students early access to their new school homes

July 28, 2017

Though the “first day of school” isn’t for another two weeks, students across the county returned to campuses this week to learn more about the schools they will call home for the next few years.

At Plant City High School, more than 270 students participated in Raider Invasion, a day of knowledge and bonding. Upperclassmen, administrators and ninth-grade teachers collaborated to create a fun, yet educational experience to help to Class of 2021 get ready for the year ahead.

Students broke into themed groups led by upperclassmen for an icebreaker and “get to know you” session. Once well acquainted, each group went on a scavenger hunt to learn about the different areas of the campus and where to go to for certain needs, such as the nurse when you need to take your meds or the locker room for physical education class.

Freshmen also went through four rotations, to learn about curriculum, guidance, athletics and student affairs, and had the opportunity to ask questions to the faculty.

The day ended with the freshmen officially feeling like Plant City Raiders, receiving color-themed Raider Invasion T-shirts, their class schedule and lunch provided by the school’s agriculture program.

“We really want to encourage the incoming freshmen to get involved.  Looking back as an 8th grader I never would have thought I would be here today helping to plan this event. Plant City High School and my experience in Student Government has really helped me step out of my shell,” said Allison Kummelman, a proud Plant City senior.

In Ruskin, Kourtney Moore participated in a similar program at Lennard High School.

"It's a little overwhelming, because it's my first time being on high school grounds.  It's just a whole new experience for me," she said.

Classmate Natalie Nicosia said she was both excited and nervous.

“I'm excited knowing where I'm going to be for high school, but my nervousness comes from not knowing where to go with the cliques and different people,” she said. “I think I'll see new people who I might make friends with, so after today I'll have more friends that I can sit with at lunch, walk to my classes with.”

Lennard Principal Denise Savino said the goal was to ease students' fears.

"It's so important for our ninth graders to become acclimated with our campus as early as possible, so they can get acquainted with their schedules, the campus itself, look at the classrooms, basically just to get all of their nerves out, so when they come on their first day, they're a little more confidant," she said.  "We really care about them, want them to feel welcome here and have a great four years towards graduation."

At Hillsborough High School, students in the International Baccalaureate magnet program attended a week of classroom sessions aimed at exposing them to the rigor of the program. They studied lessons from pre-IB English I, Algebra II and Advanced Placement U.S. Government for four days, but also found time to bond.

Between discussing reading passages, freshman Luis Rios said he wanted to get to know about expectations and also to meet teachers and classmates. “I didn’t want to come first day without a clue,” he said.

At Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, 320 new Warriors attended one of two sessions this week. They were welcomed by teachers, administrators and upperclassmen. They received a Steinbrenner and a Class of 2021 pen. They also rotated through sessions on topics such as summer reading assignments, tips for self-advocating and an overview of clubs.

They also toured the campus and learned the alma mater.

Just down their shared driveway, Martinez Middle School hosted Camp Mustang on Wednesday.

Before the event began, one new student from South Africa apprehensively heeded mom’s advice to “sit anywhere you want” before shaking off a goodbye nod from his visiting grandmother as if to say, “I’ve got this.” Moments later, reading teacher Dawn Newman found herself going table-to-table, introducing students to each other. Activities at Camp Mustang included a scavenger hunt led by student volunteers, details on how to use the Edsby program to access their grades and training on a skill Principal Brent McBrien told a cafeteria of sixth-graders would be critical to their success: Using a combination lock.

Events like these helped not only students, but also parents nervous about the transition.

“Of course I have some anxiety about it,” said Richard Moore, father to a new Lennard High School Longhorn. “I'm putting my baby out here with people she's really not familiar with. I want to know who the AP is, who the principal is, guidance counselor. I want to be involved and know what's going on.  It's a good opportunity for me to get introduced to me to the school as well."

Students played a large role in organizing these events, to help those who are in the same position they occupied just a few years ago. At Lennard, those volunteers included senior Zakiya Greer.

“As incoming freshmen, we had this experience also, and that helped us succeed in our high school career,” Grier said. “We want the same thing for the freshmen that's coming in.”

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