New format to yearly freshman orientation Hot dogs replaced by presentations

She clenches a white paper in her fist that outlines the next four hours– these next four hours will help prepare freshman Amber Cirilla for the next four years. She waits in the hall as a session finishes up, darting her gaze around the unfamiliar hall.

“I thought there would just be a few teachers walking us around and showing us our classrooms but I didn’t think we’d be doing activities in the beginning,” Cirilla said.

Cirilla is one of almost 400 incoming freshmen. To prepare these students, administration redesigned their orientation to a more structured schedule that took place Aug. 25. Included were sessions to introduce Project Based Learning (PBL) and icebreakers, as well as allow freshmen to pay their course fees and receive their schedules.

“Last year we didn’t really have an orientation– we just invited students to pay fees, eat a hot dog and walk around but we didn’t really orient anyone to anything,” Dean Sherrae Nelson said. “This year it’s very different with the sessions that we’re offering and we’ve invited parents to participate. We’re really trying to welcome our incoming freshmen, show them a little bit about Southwest so that Monday is not quite as intimidating.”

Parents also attended sessions to learn how the school is structured and answer any questions, and then take a self-guided campus tour.

“I like having the parents kind of taken aside and addressing the issues that we think are important and still having the opportunity for the students to go around in their program areas and touch base on what they need to know to get ready for the school year,” Stacy, a freshman’s mother, said.

With a new approach to the orientation, administration hopes students will have an easier time adjusting to high school.

“Our campus can be overwhelming so I hope they feel more comfortable and relaxed,” Nelson said. “I know they’ll still be nervous, even seniors are nervous on the first day, but I hope they feel more comfortable because at least they’ve seen the campus and a few familiar faces.”