Education feature: Freshman face tough transition

Holly Duval thought her freshman year in high school would be scary.

It turns out that wasn't true. Duval said the jump to the Clovis Freshman Academy includes more responsibilities and school work, but she feels comfortable.

High school freshman year is a pivotal time in a teenager's academic and social life, according to freshman academy biology teacher Nicole Hahn.

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks

Clovis freshmen, from left, Tucker Dobbs, Lily Martin, Holly Duval and Kiana Nathavong chat Wednesday in front of Clovis High School Freshmen campus about the day's events.

Principal Diana Russell believes students are apprehensive about starting class because they come from different cultures, backgrounds and feeder schools, in this case Yucca and Marshall middle schools.

She said students struggle with anxiety and stress caused by fear of the unknown early but then ease into their freshman year.

"Students are anxious to know what other students are going to be like," Russell said. "I see it every year but it quickly diminishes after the first or second day of school. They are excited and talking to people they've never talked to before, realizing that they're going to fit in and everything is going to be OK."

According to Hahn, many students understand they're earning college credits, their grades can be viewed by college recruiters and even employers, and feel pressure to succeed.

"Before my work would not be on record, but now I take things a lot more seriously," Duval said.

Duval said her teachers allow the same amount of time to turn in assignments as in middle school, which eases her mind. She said her 21-year-old sister in college provides help with homework and offers useful advice on the social scene on campus.

To help students deal with stress, Hahn said the school has a teaming concept in which a group of teachers focus on a certain group of students.

"Yesterday I had a student who seemed a little sad so I pulled her aside," Hahn said. "It's nice that we see those things and I'm able to kind of talk about it with my other team members to make sure she was doing OK."

Hahn said school counselors and teachers are always available to speak to students about freshman fears and stress, and activities such as student council, sports and reading and Spanish clubs often help students cope.

Hahn said educators are trying to start math and science clubs at the school this year. Hahn also discusses social media with her students in detail to help them avoid drama.

"There's so much turmoil that can happen," Hahn said. "With just one little swipe of a key you can hurt somebody."

Hahn said freshman tend to listen to teachers more than sophomores, juniors and seniors, and can be molded easier.

Tucker Dobbs said he deals with little stress but math makes him nervous. Dobbs said his grades have improved since middle school, classes seem to pass quickly, and turning in assignments is easy. Dobbs said his popularity at Marshall Middle School has also facilitated his freshman year.

"I had a lot of friends at Marshall, like pretty much everybody," Dobbs said. "So I'm kind of used to everybody. I think you get more freedom here. When you get older they (teachers) trust you more I guess."

Dobbs said his only disappointment is that the school's closed campus policy will prevent him from driving to pick up lunch when he gets his driver's license soon.

Kiana Nathavong, who thought her freshman course load would be more difficult, says biology is her most difficult subject

"When my teacher explains it, it doesn't get through my head but I can study before school or during lunch," Nathavong said. "I want a college to accept me when they look at my grades."

Nathavong said if she encounters stress she thinks talking to her friends and her 30-year-old brother will help her pull through.

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