Freshman Focus, a program uniquely connected to Gibbons, this year celebrated its 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, the program has grown tremendously, but its core goal remains resolutely the same: to ease the first-day jitters of incoming freshmen and provide them with a glimpse of life at Gibbons.
Before the start of the 2019-2020 school year, 329 students attended Freshman Focus, which took place over three half days from noon to 3:30 p.m., August 6 -8. The College Counseling Department coordinates the voluntary program.
“Students say they are more confident about starting school by the end of Freshman Focus and that one of the best parts is meeting a lot of new people,” said Susan Ellis.
In the last decade:
Freshmen attending the program grew from 130 to 329.
Educators involved increased from 14 to 27.
Student volunteers ballooned from a handful to 125, including 15 members of a leadership team.
Study skills sessions went from seven, each taught by one educator, to nine, each taught by two educators.
The focus program concept expanded to include a half-day session for sophomores, juniors, and seniors, respectively. College Counseling, working with a team of educators, created and implemented the grade-specific focus program. It was held this year on August 9 and offered students tools, practice, and preparation to succeed in the upcoming school year.
These numbers, however, tell only part of the story. To be sure, Freshman Focus not only has helped prepare thousands of students to make the transition into high school, but also to meet the academic demands of freshman year. Susan Ellis, a Gibbons college counselor who also heads the program, described the experience as transformational. (pictured right)
“The student transformation throughout Freshman Focus always amazes and encourages me,” Ellis said. “Students say they are more confident about starting school by the end of Freshman Focus and that one of the best parts is meeting a lot of new people.”
How does the program work? For each of the three half days, the incoming freshmen attended small interaction groups, providing them with the opportunity to meet one another and form friendships. The students also went to different study skills sessions. They included tips on communicating with educators, getting organized, and Gibbons tech tools. At the end of the program, students took part in an organized game, enabling them to interact with one another.
Students said they enjoyed the program’s engaging environment. “I liked the energy and vibe because everyone was SUPER welcoming and very supportive and interactive,” noted MJ DiFiore ’23.
They also appreciated the lessons learned and the sneak peek into Gibbons that Freshman Focus provided. “I learned new study and organization skills,” said Adam Oldham ’23.
Sydney Hamilton '23 added, “I learned that I should get involved so that I may fully embrace my experience here.”
Explaining the collective impact of the focus programs, Ellis said: “Everyone knows they are part of a community that wants them to succeed and that support is always available. Myths are dispelled, and students feel much more confident as they start a new school year.”