Starting High School Off Right: 4 Ways Christian Schools Can Help 9th Graders Get Connected
The transition from middle to high school is a big one. Students are usually excited about more opportunities and independence, but may be apprehensive about harder classes, making new friends, and preparing for the future.
Parents have their own set of concerns — you want to make sure your teen has everything they need to flourish academically, socially, and spiritually during these critical years.
It’s wise to be aware of all the changes 9th grade will bring, and to choose a school in the greater Iowa City area that will partner with you in setting your student up for a thriving freshman year. When teens do well in their first year, they are much more likely to remain on a trajectory of success throughout high school and college.
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Here are a few ways Hillcrest Academy is making sure incoming freshmen have everything they need to feel safe, confident, and connected as they transition to high school:
Establishing Meaningful Connections Early On
Walking into high school for the first time can be intimidating. 9th graders may feel like fish out of water, wondering where they fit in and how to find their people. At Hillcrest Academy, we take some of the pressure off by organizing “Sibling Families” — groups made up of both new students and returning students. The returning students gravitate toward their younger “siblings,” especially during those initial weeks, to answer questions or simply to hang out. We also host a beginning-of-the-year school sponsored “Family Party,” which promotes bonding among the sibling groups through fun games and activities.
Creating an Off-Campus Learning Experience
Freshmen quickly memorize their schedules and learn to move through their day without hiccups, but do they truly feel connected to their campus community? Hillcrest Academy’s off-site retreat, hosted in the fall of each year, makes sure no one is getting lost in the shuffle. Students travel to Crooked Creek Christian Camp in Washington to learn more about each other, their school, and the mission and values that make their community unique. It’s a great way to start off the school year and allows students to connect with others that they might not have otherwise met in the classroom.
Involving Parents in Campus Life
Studies show that students with involved parents not only achieve higher grades, they also adapt better to school. Parents might find that it was easier to get involved during the elementary years, so making sure high school parents feel connected is key. At Hillcrest, we invite all parents to attend our All-School Parent Meeting at the beginning of the year. It’s a time to learn more about school policies, important events throughout the year, and opportunities to get involved and support the school.
Providing Regular Mentorship
High schoolers will inevitably face challenges. Whether it is getting used to a new schedule, balancing extracurricular activities and schoolwork, or navigating more complex social relationships, teens have a lot on their plates. Even if they are surrounded by trusted adults, it can be difficult for them to reach out for help. This is why regular check-ins are so important. Our Small Groups of 5-7 students and one dedicated teacher (all same gender) meet weekly for a time of devotions, prayer, and open discussion. Students use this time to articulate their needs, struggles, and joys, and the teacher provides advice to ensure each teen is able to overcome their challenges and grow spiritually along the way.
Looking for a School Where Your High Schooler Can Succeed?
Come see Hillcrest Academy firsthand and see how we’ve created an intimate, thriving learning community.
Email us to set up your tour, or call (319) 656-2073 x20. We look forward to welcoming you!