When does an 8th grader officially become a high school student? For more than 60 rising freshmen at Roberto Clemente Community Academy, the high school experience began with a week-long summer institute called Freshman Connection. During the first week of August, incoming freshmen were invited to join teachers, staff, and current Clemente students in a series of activities, lessons, and programs designed to help them make a smooth transition into high school.
On the first day of Freshman Connection, parents and incoming freshmen met the senior leadership team, their freshman counselor, and the teachers they would work with over the course of the upcoming year. Clemente students of the Class of 2020 shared their experiences and provided firsthand knowledge of the building and what it means to be a Clemente Wildcat.
Each day featured a sample lesson from one of the seven courses that comprise the freshman MYP curriculum. Mr. Gavzer led a lesson on the new integrated math curriculum; Ms. Sizoo led students in a rhetorical analysis of a video created by a recent Clemente graduate, and Mr. Thompson helped the freshmen discover and understand the unique rhythm within Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” Students were also introduced to high school basics and post-secondary instruction, learning how to calculate a GPA and make relevant connections between grades, attendance, and options for their futures after high school.
In addition to a crash course in academic rigor, a primary focus of each day was the IB Learner Profile—a list of 10 attributes highly valued by International Baccalaureate World Schools that can help students become responsible members of local, national, and global communities. Students got to know their teachers and their classmates through daily team building activities and tasks that focused on cultivating these attributes.Throughout the week, students were challenged to be knowledgeable, principled, balanced, open-minded, caring, and reflective inquirers, thinkers, communicators, and risk-takers.
Freshman Connection culminated in a field trip to downtown Chicago for a scavenger hunt called the Amazing Race: Chicago Landmarks. Teams of freshmen paired with mentor teachers and upperclassmen to solve riddles about famous Chicago landmarks. Once the teams solved the riddle, they had to work together to navigate their way to the landmark and pose for a group photo. It was a close finish that saw all of the teams complete the scavenger hunt and take photos with iconic downtown sights like the Chicago Theater, the Daley Plaza Picasso, and the Chicago Cultural Center. By the end of the week, students were excited to start the school year and ready to face and conquer the challenges ahead.