Transitions Abound for Students at New Levels

— Suzanne M. Blake • • August 2017

School is a stepping stone into each student’s future, but for those students entering a new level of education this fall, whether it be middle school, high school or college, this back-to-school time period is full of new experiences and adjustments.

Rolesville Middle School offered the Rising Rams Retreat to all incoming sixth-graders for the first time July 7. Rolesville High will hold its annual Ram Camp for freshmen August 10.

“The idea is that it brings students into the building when other students are not here. It gives them the feel of being at school and going through those school routines and procedures, without the pressure of a normal school day,” Rolesville Middle Principal Thaddeus Sherman said. “The Rising Rams Retreat is more about preparing students for the first day of school, meaning they’re going to have an opportunity to be in their classroom, learn how to use a lock and know where their locker is.”

These programs attempt to address the anxieties students may feel about the changes of the incoming transition.

Back to School-Nyawira Nyota

“Rambassadors” prepare to help in the orientation of incoming freshmen at Ram Camp at Rolesville High in August 2016. Rambassadors are selected in an application process, which requires staff recommendations. Photo by Jacqueline Arnold

“One of the ways to bridge that transition and to ease the fears of the students is to host a summer orientation where students have the opportunity to spend a day in the building, meeting both staff and upperclassmen and getting more immersed in what to expect once they get to school,” Rolesville High Freshmen Counselor Jacqueline Arnold said.

In terms of his personal advice for the rising sixth-graders, Sherman had one about perspective.

“I would also tell them that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed or stressed in the first few weeks of sixth grade. Just remember, every other student in sixth grade is just like you,” Sherman said. “They’re probably nervous and excited about the exact same things. Try to remember that, in just three to four weeks, everything will settle down and be OK.”

This advice carries to the high school level and even into college. At Rolesville High, Arnold understands that Ram Camp, which has current students aiding as “Rambassadors,” is just one step in each student’s overall transition.

“We design this event with student engagement as a primary focus, which helps to foster a sense of excitement for the upcoming school year,” Arnold said. “We know that this is just the start of the transition for the students from having a middle school mindset to maturing and evolving into a high school mindset. The big work takes place once the school year begins.”

For college students, orientation and transition hold the change of typically being away from home, often hours away, in a new environment. From finding a perfect dorm room setup and finding a roommate to registering for the classes according to a student’s pre-selected major, college has its additional newcomer challenges.

Back to School-RAMbassadors

Nyawira Nyota (right) attends NC State University’s orientation in July. She says she is excited about the many additional resources she will find in college.
Photo courtesy of Nyawira Nyota

For Meg Parmelee, a Wake Forest resident who will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall, the biggest difference she perceives from high school to college is in independence and all it entails.

“I think the level of responsibility is going to change a whole lot. We have to do all of our laundry. We have to stay on top of ourselves, make our own schedules, deal with problems on our own and really just be advocates for ourselves without having our parents or family at our back watching over us the entire time,” Parmelee said.

Similarly to many other incoming college freshmen, Wake Forest resident and soon-to-be North Carolina State University student Nyawira Nyota has immense excitement at the forefront of her mind for the years ahead.

“Going into college is so exciting to me because there is so much that I don’t know, and knowing that I am about to engage in the most challenging and productive learning of my life is absolutely thrilling,” Nyota said. “I have so many more resources at my disposal from libraries filled with endless books, professors who have a passion for their subject, and other students with different perspectives and opinions. Honestly, not to sound cheesy, but anything is possible, and that is so exciting!”