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Previewing Freshman Year
Rachelle Garbarine

New classmates, new courses, new educators, new opportunities, and new expectations - all equal the transition into high school for students. For three half days before the start of the 2018-2019 school year, however, 325 incoming freshmen came together to experience Freshman Focus, which is intended to ease students' first-day jitters, and provide them with a preview of life at Cardinal Gibbons.

Freshman Focus 2018.

Since its inception in 2010, the voluntary program has helped prepare hundreds of students for the academic demands of freshman year. The College Counseling Department at Gibbons coordinates the program, which took place from noon to 3:30 PM, July 31- August 2.

For the last several years, there also have been grade-specific focus programs for sophomores, juniors, and seniors - also designed and implemented by College Counseling. Each of the programs, held on August 3, offered students tools, practice, and preparation to meet the demands they will face in the upcoming school year.

"Knowing what to expect and hearing from students who have been there helps relieve some of the stress students feel," says Susan Ellis. "Everyone is reminded that 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."

Describing the impact of the Focus Programs Susan Ellis, a Gibbons college counselor who also heads the program, explains: Every year, students who attend any of the Focus Programs say they feel more prepared for the coming year.

"Knowing what to expect and hearing from students who have been there helps relieve some of the stress students feel," she adds. "Everyone is reminded that 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.

Here's how the program works. For each of the three half days the incoming freshmen, for example, attended small interaction groups, providing them with the opportunity to meet one another and form friendships. The students also went to different class sessions. They included tips for test taking, technological apps and tools for studying, communication and self-advocacy skills, joining the Gibbons story, and new this year, the how tos of freshman year.

Freshman Focus 2018.

The new session was offered, Ellis notes, in response to feedback that students could use some specific guides on how to get involved, what to do during Mass, how to find clubs, and who to go to when struggling with classes.  At the end of the program, students took part in an organized game enabling them to interact with one another.

Students say they appreciate the lessons learned and the sneak peek into Cardinal Gibbons that Freshman Focus provided. "I learned to ask for help when I need it," notes incoming freshman Alex Zukowski '22. "I also became more aware of clubs, like robotics and Franciscan Youth International (FYI), that I feel I will get involved with in the future."