Friends of Freshmen program receives makeover


photo courtesy Jeff Regier

Friends of Freshman leaders, juniors Holt Williams and Sawyer Schmidt, show a group of freshmen around the school to give them an idea of where their classes will be. The tours were given Aug. 26 from 9 a.m. through 2 p.m.

Upperclassmen come and go, but the influence they have remains years after they have left. 

Friends of Freshman (FOF) is one program implemented to make sure the impact upperclassmen leave is a positive one. This year the FOF program is under construction with new sponsors of the program, counselors Harmony Davis and Audrey Neuschafer.

“The biggest difference is going to be that we are meeting once a month,” Davis said. “In the past, the mentors didn’t really have a lot to do with the actual transition. It was mostly just freshman orientation and back to school night.”

In previous years the FOF leaders, which are juniors and seniors, were only involved in Freshman for a Day. Freshman for a Day is an initiative to help the transition between middle school and high school. For one day at the end of the school year, eighth-graders head up to the high school and receive tours from their group leaders. They also meet teachers and sit in on a few classes. 

“My goal for the new program is to give that support to the freshman as they come up to high school,” Davis said. “It is also my goal to make it a more student-led program where the freshman mentors come up with ideas for the program as well as having a leadership role, which they didn’t have before.”

Davis picks mentors based on their academic background, commitment to the school and empathy. Harmony also makes sure she can trust the mentor’s ability to guide the freshmen and be her eyes and ears to find struggling students.

“I want parents to know that this is a program intended to really give freshmen a chance to get to know upperclassmen and who can give them support, give them a peer review of the school and make freshmen more comfortable,” Neuschafer said.  “The program is especially important this year because the freshman for a day didn’t happen, so they were dropped into an unknown place and the mentors can help them navigate this weird year.” 

This is Neuschafer’s first year with the FOF program as well as her first year at the high school. Previously, she worked as a middle school counselor. 

“When I first got to high school, I was very impressed with how [mentors] volunteered to lead the freshman tours before we came back to school. They were all very polite, and I think they made a great impression on the freshmen,” Neuschafer said.

Typically, the eighth graders get the opportunity to participate in Freshman for a Day, but due to COVID-19, it was canceled. Despite the circumstances, the counselors did not want to leave the newly freshmen feeling lost, so they asked mentors to volunteer to give tours.

“I hope the freshmen get some support as they learn how to balance the academic side of things because they are much more important now, but also get to do activities and not fall behind,” Davis said. 

Davis took over the program after the previous head, Jennie Lary, moved. Davis was excited when the program was given down to her and was eager to make changes within the program. 

“There is a lot of evidence that shows that a freshman mentoring program can lead to a more successful high school career like having a sense of belonging, academics, clubs and more,” Davis said.

Davis and Nueschafer are considering adding a class that would help freshmen with conflict resolution, going hand in hand with the mentoring program. 

“I want freshmen to form a connection with upperclassmen because we all know that students listen to their peers far more often than the grown-ups around the school,” Neuschafer said.

Both Neuschafer and Davis want mentors to help mentees seamlessly transition from middle school and give them a helping hand to navigate all aspects of high school.

“You know when you are a freshman and everyone is big and scary?” Davis said. “I want them to be able to look up and find a familiar face and smile because then they will be able to feel better and have a sense of belonging.”