We named them Freshman Hello Pods and Freshman Parent Hello Pods for good reason. As their names imply, they are the innovative new way our school developed to introduce its newest members to the Gibbons experience, to others in the community, and to each other, in this COVID-19 reality.
More than 240 Class of 2024 students and parents attended their respective Hello Pods, which were optional, and held at two different times – 8-10 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. - during the week of July 6. The two-hour engagement sessions, filled with fun activities for students, and lively discussion for parents, comprised small groups of no more than 25 and took place outdoors on our campus, meeting all local and state health and safety guidelines.
Assistant Principal for Engagement Michael Rogosich ’90 said working “in person” with students and parents on campus during the Hello Pods “had been the happiest I’ve been” since the pandemic began.
He added, “It was such a joy to let Gibbons happen and see Class of 2024 students, returning Gibbons students, and educators come together, losing themselves at the moment and giving of themselves.”
In the pre-COVID era, there were many in-person, on-campus engagement opportunities offered during the summer to incoming freshmen and their parents to get acquainted with one another and with the Gibbons culture. Traditionally, those opportunities included hosting summer camps for Class of 2024 students and middle school coffees for parents.
Since Gibbons wasn’t able to offer those traditions in light of the pandemic, it looked to non-traditional ways to bring students and parents together. And given the participants’ reactions, the Hello Pods were the perfect solution.
Meeting other parents and becoming familiar with their new school family were among the reasons Gibbons Parents Wayne Phillips, Carissa Ramirez, and Patricia LaPaglia, attended the Hello Pods. They also enjoyed being safely on campus with others and out of COVID-19 isolation.
So how did the event help prepare them for the start of the 2020-2021 school year?
Discovering other parents’ backgrounds, and their child’s interests, LaPaglia explained, helped her “talk to my own child about what he might have in common with new students.”
Phillips said the event helped him “learn how to become involved in activities and seek assistance from Gibbons.”
Ramirez added that she felt “safe and excited for the life my child is about to experience!”
What did students have to say about the Hello Pods? Returning Gibbons student Blake Raphael ’23, said assisting at the event helped him hone his leadership skills. Meanwhile, Kinley Simken ’21 said it made her realize how much “I had missed the sense of community that exists throughout the Gibbons campus.”
And incoming freshmen described the day as fun, informative, and enjoyable. Just ask Wade Veasey ’24.
“The event gave me a chance to see what the environment is like at Gibbons,” he said. “I also enjoyed the games and being with the students and staff. I felt like I was part of their family.”