July 31, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Making the transition into high school can be an intimidating experience.  Students are often thrown into a new environment and expected to make the best of it on their own, but a new program in Wayne county is aimed at helping students become comfortable with their new school before the academic year begins.

Recently, new freshman were invited to Wayne County high school a week before school started to participate in activities and discussions to help make the transition from middle to high school as smooth as possible. 

“This replaces our traditional freshman orientation,” said Larissa Hayes, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for 4-H-youth development in Wayne County.  “Instead of coming in and having principals and guidance counselors lecture to them, the students got hands-on experiences and got to tour the school and become more familiar with it before school starts.”

High school juniors and seniors volunteer to be mentors to the new freshman.  Two or three mentors are assigned about 15 freshmen.  The program goes beyond the one-day workshop.  Mentors will be actively involved with mentees throughout the school year.

Stuart Richardson and Jerrod Gibbons volunteered to be mentors for the program.

“I remember when I was a freshman coming in here,” Gibbons said.  “Everything was new and I didn’t know where anything was and so I thought this program might make it easier for the freshman coming in and I helped get it started.”

Richardson said that he hopes to learn as he goes on in the program and also realizes the importance of staying in school until graduation.  He wants to make sure his mentees understand that too.

“I figured this would be fun to help them get used to the school and also help make me a better person,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll learn a few things too as I go on.  You have to graduate to do anything these days and hopefully they will understand that.”

Wayne County High School Principal Peggy Shearer said that sometimes students listen to their peers more than school officials and teachers.

“Sometimes they see us as being old and they’ll just relate to another student better,” she said.  “This program gives the freshman a chance to meet upper classman so they will have someone to talk to about where things are without feeling embarrassed.”

Shearer said she has been impressed with the amount of interest in the program.

“I was surprised to have so many volunteers,” she said. “We had about 45 to 50 upperclassmen who were willing to give up about four days of their summer to come and help us get this program together.”

Hayes said she hopes this is just the beginning of a very successful program in Wayne County. The program was made possible by a grant from the new communities program of Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR).  CYFAR also provided some training for the mentors prior to the one-day program.

“Hopefully this program will keep students involved in school so they won’t drop out,” she said.  “And, hopefully the mentors will be people the students can look up to and trust.”


Larissa Hayes  606-348-8453