You can go ahead and admit it – freshman year of high school is one of the most intimidating experiences for young teenagers across the country. Striding into a new school with a lot of unfamiliar faces, brand-new teachers, and crash-landing into the bottom of the social food chain is not an all-together enjoyable adventure.
Well, at least that's true at most schools. At Monsignor Edward Pace High School, however, no freshman has to walk in with any fear. The Pace traditions that have been in place for almost as long as the school's foundation make freshman year not only bearable, but also memorable.
Through two events, The Spartan Experience and Freshmen Orientation Week, the newcomers to the school get their first taste of their new school in an amazing way. The Spartan Experience is a form of acclimation for freshmen as they enter into a brand new environment in an enjoyable manner; this helps them to be able to walk into school on their first day without any fear, shyness, or stress.
They are welcomed onto campus the week before the official school year starts, and they are there for a day led by sophomore, junior, and senior leadership volunteers. This year, the freshmen were welcomed into a "Spartan Boot Camp" in which they were the soldiers in training, the volunteers acted as the sergeants, and the deans were the overlooking superiors.
Throughout the first half of the day, these slightly intimidated new soldiers set up their iPads for use for the rest of the year, learned about discipline, and got a briefing on appropriate technology use when they were split into three groups.
After a pasta lunch, the soldiers were filtered into the gym for some hard-core training brought to them by their leading sergeants. They got to express their hopes and fears for the next four years of their life, they watched presentations, and they even got to participate in fun games so they could loosen up a little and see that high school can be fun and carefree rather than overwhelming.
They were able to start school the next week with a weight lifted off their shoulders; high school was going to be an enjoyable escapade after all! The warm freshmen-welcome doesn't end in that one day. In September, there is an entire week dedicated to initiating the freshmen into the Pace family through lots of events.
The week kicks off with a senior-freshman partnership, in which each freshman is “purchased” by a senior and is handed a t-shirt themed for the week. This year's theme was “Toy Story” marking the seniors as "Pace Rangers" and the freshmen as their little green aliens.
The second day is one every senior looks forward to and every Pace student remembers – the freshmen are left to the mercy of their seniors and are dressed up in costume for the entire day.
This year, the halls were filled with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Despicable Me minions, and fairies among many other creative costume ideas as the freshmen class were all equally embarrassed, but laughing together.
The rest of the week consists of activities, games, and traditions leading up to Friday where the seniors take on the freshmen head-to-head in a series of unforgettable games and challenges. When all is said and done, the freshmen experiences that welcome them into the Pace family are not set as a form of humiliation, in fact quite the opposite is true.
These traditions exist to bring everyone into the open arms of the Pace student body. Every single person shares the common memories of their freshman experience, and it bonds us all together.
Everyone tells the story of their freshman dress up day, talks about how long it took for the paint to come out of their hair, and laughs about how ridiculous they looked playing silly games, and they say all of this with smiles that reach from ear to ear.
The freshmen traditions are some of the best memories that are made in the four high school years. My senior-versus-freshmen pep rally is one of my fondest freshman year memories, and getting to compete in an environment that was immensely welcoming is something so powerful that it makes a very long lasting impression.
These traditions are the very best glimpse into the life of a Pace Spartan, and every person who goes through them comes out smiling.