By Julia Colborn
Two years ago, Rolesville High opened its doors and welcomed its first students, consisting of only freshmen and sophomores. These sophomores went on to be the first junior class, and by the end of this August, they will officially become the first senior class of RHS – the Class of 2016.
With all four grades, the school will hold about 1,800 students. The preparation needed for this addition to run smoothly has facilitated a busy summer: finalizing workday schedules, professional development, revising the needed forms, parent sessions, meet-and-greets for parents and teachers, continuously enrolling students, and other miscellaneous tasks not on the agenda.
Thirty-five new faculty members have been hired, including Kelly Nilles and Tosha Pullen joining Jeffrey Dolan and Mayra Guallpa to make a full administrative team. The process is going well with tasks completed on time. Student schedules are appropriately balanced, and a Ram Camp was held at the end of July for this year’s 360 new students.
Principal Ericka Lucas, with over 20 years in education, has just about seen it all. She spent her first 12 years teaching Health and Physical Education at Wake Forest-Rolesville Middle School, while being encouraged by her principal to go back to college for another degree.
Upon attaining her Master’s of Administration, Lucas became assistant principal at Durant Road Middle School and then at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School for the ninth grade class. Later, she became principal of East Wake School of Arts, and finally Rolesville High, where she has been since the school opened in 2013.
“Kids are kids,” she says. “It doesn’t matter whether they are in elementary, middle or high school. Some are more mature than others, and you will always have various ability levels. My goal is to meet them where they are and to provide the core instruction for them all.”
Every educator’s goal is to have their students go above and beyond only doing well on tests. Faculty members have a unique opportunity to build relationships with students and really get to know them. Once they can identify class leaders, their teachers can put these kids “up front” to help lead their peers by example.
“I think sometimes it just boils down to the kids feeling that we support them,” Lucas says.
Without having a precedent to follow or upperclassmen to look up to, the class of ’16 has had to think critically (if unintentionally) about what they wanted their high school experience to be. Extra-curricular activities, like sports, have been particularly challenging, especially when competing against older, bigger, more mature veterans at other schools.
But all of the programs have “made leaps and bounds,” Lucas says. “Our kids never backed down. They kept fighting.”
Lucas went on to say that it hasn’t been easy for the rising seniors, but they have been doing exceptionally well. Students have used every opportunity to build character, persevere and improve. The lack of upperclassmen for two years has been a bit of a struggle for them, but they have grown up and faced it together. As the first graduating class, they have set the bar high for future students.
Not everything will feel like uncharted territory for this year’s seniors. Senior prom only varies from junior prom because graduation is right around the corner. New waves of underclassmen arrive every year regardless, and academic clubs have developed experience among their members over two years.
Lucas is particularly excited about the upcoming school year.
“We now have a senior class,” she says. “I have seen some of them over the summer, and I have no doubt that they are ready. Ready to be led by example, ready to be supportive and encourage our underclassmen. We are definitely on the road to excellence.”