Posted Date: 02/08/2017
(Article by Keri Thoele) Can you imagine what it feels like to move into a new school district and walk onto a campus where you are the only person who doesn’t know anyone? You’d probably just want to shrink into the shadows and quietly try to navigate through the day, but to your horror, a teacher or a counselor interrupts a class already in progress to introduce you as “the new kid.” Suddenly, all eyes are on you – everyone is staring and sizing you up. For many students who have to move one or more times in their life, this is their worst nightmare.
Because walking into an unfamiliar environment and making new friends is a daunting experience for most students, Groesbeck High School has adopted a program, Student 2 Student (or S2S), to make the transition into a new school less difficult. This program was developed by the Military Child Education Coalition to help the children of military parents, which often have high mobility rates, adapt in new school settings. The goal of GHS S2S is to make students feel comfortable, welcome, included, and accepted the very first time they walk on campus.
This process begins when a new student arrives in the registrar’s office. A member of the S2S team is summoned to be a “buddy” and a “mentor” to the new student. The S2S student shows the new student around the school, walks him or her to classes, and sits with him or her at lunch. Further, S2S strives to encourage all students in the school to come together and interact with each other through a variety of fun activities. “New Table Tuesday” is an initiative where students are encouraged to sit at a different table with a different group of people each Tuesday and just mix it up. All 12 current members participate and put themselves out there to learn about other people and get to know them better. Junior Mark Smith talks about his membership in this group, “S2S has been something I'm proud to be a part of. I got selected to be in it last year as a sophomore, and I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into! But S2S is definitely a hardworking team, from showing newly enrolled students around the campus to hosting a "New Student Breakfast" where we serve them donuts and play games. We just try to make them feel comfortable and welcomed.” Smith also states that the S2S team “just wants to be there” for other students.
On Wednesdays S2S members arrive early and greet everyone as they enter through the front doors. Sometimes they dress up, play music, or handout treats. Junior Dani Morgan points out that the benefits of S2S extend to members as well, “Greeting on Wednesday is a fun part of the week, and it helps kick-start everyone's day. When I started out in S2S, I was an extremely shy person, but through all of the new student activities and being forced to be around people, I have come out of my shell some.”
The club, which is sponsored by GHS English teacher and coach, Melissa Cole, currently has 12 in membership and three standing officers: President, Claylin Carter; Vice President, Sam Echols; and Secretary, Avery Kelley. Students who wish to become S2S members must submit an application with reference letters from staff members and a parent or guardian. They have to have good grades, attendance, and communication skills, enjoy meeting new people, and represent GHS positively. They also have to be able to commit to the program.
Besides their mission of an inclusive environment for the high school, the group also participates in a great deal of community service. They volunteer at Lara’s House twice a year, cleaning cages and taking care of animals. They also have a partnership with Windsor Nursing Home, which they visit a couple times a year. They socialize and play games with the residents, paint their finger nails, and at Christmas time, furnish gifts and bring joy. Junior Myles McGruder again expresses the satisfaction of being an S2S member, “When we visit the nursing home, I have a great time learning more about the times I was not present in the world.”
Mackenzie Commander, a new freshman who transferred from Franklin to Groesbeck, was very excited about S2S’s welcoming activities, “The upperclassmen have been very sweet and welcoming. I’ve had to move to a new school before and make the transition on my own. This was way better. They were so energetic, and I felt instantly welcomed.” Tyrique Carter, a freshmen who moved to Groesbeck from Medina Valley, echoed her sentiments, “I loved the New Student Breakfast. I had fun playing games and getting to know people. In my experience, I’ve moved a lot, and I know how good it feels to have others make you feel welcome.” Both of the new students agreed that in the future, they’d like to be in the program helping and welcoming others.
Sponsor, Melissa Cole, is very proud of the work the S2S team is doing and says, “It’s about Groesbeck High School students coming out of their comfort zones and understanding how new students feel and then interacting with those new students to show them who we are as a school and community.”
On Saturday, February 11, S2S is hosting a Limestone County Senior Citizens Valentine’s Dance at the Groesbeck Convention Center. All senior citizens are welcome to come and enjoy a complimentary dinner and dance to a band that plays a cross between old-time gospel and classic country music. This is a good time to not only have an enjoyable night on the town, but to also get to know these students and witness the work they are doing to create an inclusive and positive culture at Groesbeck High School.