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Four La Grande High School freshmen, from left, Emily Durbin, Aleasha McIntosh, Kaitlyn Henry and Sierra Smith, appeared at the front desk of the main office Monday while participating in a scavenger hunt during Orientation Day. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
La Grande freshmen, transfer students get school to themselves during orientation
Freshmen orientation in movies and television is frequently portrayed with a fun, light-hearted touch.
La Grande High School’s freshmen orientation on Monday was filled with light moments and activities including a balloon-popping game and a scavenger hunt. Still, the gravity and importance of the journey LHS’s approximately 165 freshmen are beginning was not overlooked, not by a long shot.
Teachers like Pete Ridder made sure of it.
Ridder, who teaches science and futures, emphasized the importance of getting off to a good start during talks with students.
“This is the first time anything you do in school actually matters,” Ridder told students.
He explained that before now students could make bad mistakes in school and still advance, but this is no longer true. Ridder said that students who get poor grades or get into trouble will reduce their chances to go to college or enter certain career fields.
“Some doors may be slammed in your face because of what you did in high school,” Ridder said. “My hope is that all of your doors are wide open after your first year.”
Ridder and other teachers told students of how they are present to extend helping hands.
“My goal is to open new doors for you, not close doors. My job is to help you succeed,” he said.
Ridder was speaking toward the end of a day where freshmen and transfer students had the school all to themselves for orientation. Students met with the teachers in their classes for 10 minutes during an afternoon run through their schedule. This followed many activities, including the scavenger hunt, meant to help students find their way around the school and get to know their classmates.
Freshman AnnaBelle Craddock enjoyed the overall experience.
“It was kind of a warm welcome instead of ‘Just find your classes,’” Craddock said.
Ilyjah Free said she welcomed the opportunity to learn how to find her way around school.
“It is a very intimidating environment,” Free said. “This really helps.”
The transition for Free and all freshmen is being eased with the help of Link Crew members. These are LHS juniors and seniors who have volunteered to help freshmen make the transition to high school. Link Crew members were assigned to 10 freshmen whom they spent more than an hour meeting with Monday. The Link Crew students will serve as mentors for the freshmen on their team throughout the school year.
“We are people you can talk to and trust,” said Link Crew member Auslin McDaniel, a junior.
Link Crew member Elloise Wright, a senior, said she wants to be there for freshmen if they have a problem they need to talk to someone about.
All Link Crew members wore pink T-shirts Monday and also donned them on Tuesday, the first official day of classes, so they can be easily identified by freshmen.
“We are beacons,” said Link Crew member Frankie Benitez, a senior. “Come ask me if you have any questions.”
Social studies teacher Josh White, a Link Crew adviser, said it serves a valuable purpose for freshmen.
“It connects them with upperclassmen,” White said.
LHS science and math teacher Pat Des Jardin said that Link Crew members provide freshmen with a valuable tool for success. He is heartened to see students evolving to serve after being unlikely candidates for the positions as freshmen.
“It is nice to see kids who were a little shy step up,” Des Jardin said.
Des Jardin said freshmen orientation is important at a school the size of La Grande. He said freshmen are at risk of getting lost in the shuffle in the early days of school if they do not have their bearings.
“This gets them up to speed. They hit the ground running (when school starts),” Des Jardin said.
The orientation day was used by some teachers to get students excited about what they will be studying.
Social studies teacher John Lamoreau told students they will be learning about the importance of being observant and doing research before making conclusions. He demonstrated how reality is often different than we perceive it, sometimes using photographs which portray illusions to make his point.
Freshmen met their teachers for all seven of their classes on Monday. Freshman Samuel Brown said he enjoyed the experience.
“I thought it was a fun education, seeing our different teachers,” he said.