8/21/15 Getting schooled

Williams High School junior Chance Barton models an improper outfit according to the dress code during orientation Thursday for incoming freshmen at the school.

Sam Roberts / Times-News

Williams High School junior Chance Barton models an improper outfit according to the dress code during orientation Thursday for incoming freshmen at the school.

Getting schooled
Faculty, upperclassmen welcome freshmen to Williams
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 8/21/15  
Reprinted with permission.  

   School starts Monday, but a couple hundred 14-year-olds were at Walter M. Williams High School Thursday learning the ropes from the faculty and some trusted upperclassmen.

   Jill Harper, media specialist at Williams, started her sessions by getting two or three volunteers to step in small, clear-plastic totes half filled with sand.

   “Why is this crazy lady making you put your feet in a box of sand in a library?” she asks them as a boy in a Nirvana

   T-shirt shakes sand from his feet and puts his shoes on. “Because I want you to think about your digital footprint.”

   Colleges, potential employers, the military, she said, all would look these students up on the Internet when they applied or enlisted, so they should pay attention to what they put online. They should also keep their personal information, like birthdays, phone numbers and addresses, off social media.

   After telling them how to avoid bad things popping up in Google searches of their names, Harper showed them how to use Google tools to manage their school work.

   The incoming class of 2019 is big at 330 students, assistant principal Robert Drummond said. Two hundred and forty registered for orientation — far more than any previous year — and even more showed up.

   About 40 juniors and seniors were there as student leaders. They wore black shirts and shorts, and were there to give the incoming freshmen advice and help with the sessions. They are also to be guides for these freshmen through the year. All were top students in class and extracurricular activities, Drummond said.

   “That’s the kind of kid we get to be mentors,” he said.

   There were six sessions on such things as scheduling and college preparedness. Drummond got to tell the new students what not to do.

   “Any troublemakers in here?” asked the friendly, well-over-six-feet, shavenheaded assistant principal. “We have a cellphone policy; we have a dress code; we have tardiness; we have skipping,”

   Generally the first offense gets you in-school suspension , the second offense gets more ISS, and much more than that gets a suspension.

   “You will have the opportunity to work all day,” Drummond said. “We have a great ISS teacher.”

   Jaya Martin, student coordinator for GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) used her sessions to get the freshmen started thinking about college.

   “Know your (grade point average) and your class rank,” Martin told the group of about 45 kids. “Start up, because it’s hard to bring your GPA up once it’s down.”

   In about 15 minutes, she touched on extracurricular activities: “If you don’t have on, get one,” she said; scholarships — it’s never too early to start looking; letters of recommendation; collecting video and stories of a student’s accomplishments — do it; and starting an account with the College Foundation of North Carolina.

   “You should have one by now,” she said.

   “I know it seems early,” Martin said, “but these four years go by fast.”