Becoming SHS Blue Knights

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By: Alex Scofield
Published: 09/03/10

Katie R. Houlihan knew why signs at the entrance to Camp Burgess early this week had the words “Comfort Zone” scrawled upon them. A Sandwich High School junior, Katie was one of 100 upperclassmen on the school’s leadership team who led freshman orientation at Camp Burgess on Monday and Tuesday. Katie wants freshmen to feel comfortable as high schoolers.

But actually, the goal of this week’s orientation was to nudge the incoming freshmen out of that zone. To just break the ice,” Katie said.

Among leadership team members’ goals was to spur a new sense of identity for the freshmen.

They are no longer Wing, Forestdale, or Oak Ridge students; they are part of the Sandwich High School Class of 2014. After nine years at their old schools, though, the identities often die hard. As the second day of orientation began, Katie and her classmate Cory D. Warren knew there remained work to be done on this.

“A lot of them are sticking with their friends right now,” Cory said.

Hence an agenda of icebreaking and team-building activities for all the students at Camp Burgess. Camp counselors led groups of Sandwich students—about 10 to a group—each including freshmen and upperclassmen alike.

In a game of catch, students had to call a teammate’s name before throwing the ball to him or her, and all group members had to get the ball. Other groups played Me, Too, in which students who had a common bond called out by the counselor (“Who here plays a fall sport?”) high-fived one another. One team played Magnetic Feet, an 18-legged cousin of the traditional three-legged race, in which students needed to cooperate and strategize in order to move forward. It was tougher than it looked.

Cory and Katie were both inspired to join the leadership team because of their experience in the Knights Theater Company, Sandwich High’s drama club.

“There was this one upperclassman who took the freshmen aside and really got to know them,” Cory said. “I want to be that person.”

In less than a month, Katie predicted, the transformation in most freshmen’s self-identities will be complete. Two years after entering high school, she said, “I don’t think I even remember who went to what school.”

Orientation at Camp Burgess was not only for new students. First-year Sandwich High staff members were also there, including guidance counselors Lindsey M. Arrimour and Kathy A. Lucas, and teachers Joel A. Singer, Breanne Gillespie, and Alexander R. Grandin. Three members of the quintet—Ms. Lucas, Ms. Gillespie, and Mr. Grandin—attended Boston University, and so like the freshmen, the staff members were assimilating into their new Blue Knight identities.

“Everybody’s really welcoming,” Ms. Gillespie said.

“Everybody’s trying to dispel the pure terror I feel,” joked Mr. Grandin.

Ms. Lucas said it was already evident that there was an sense of inclusiveness among the students at orientation.

“You have some athletes who aren’t afraid to do theater,” she said. “You can kind of float and do your thing, and everybody is accepting of you.”

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