North Sanpete middle schoolers excited to fly as ‘Hawks for a Day’
MT. PLEASANT—North Sanpete High School (NSHS) and North Sanpete Middle School (NSMS) administrators have created a way to make the transition from middle to high school a less intimidating process for eighth-graders.
This year, the schools launched “Hawk for a Day,” a program that allows five eighth-grade students to visit the high school each Monday to act like a high school student for a day.
The inspiration behind Hawk for a Day came after district administrators and Gear Up coordinators heard of a similar program at a conference they attended in Spokane, Wa in October.
“It’s creating a perception for the middle school kids that, ‘this isn’t scary’ and that it can be exciting to be here,” Jeff Erickson, NSH vice principal, said. “They just get to see that it’s a cool place to be instead of being scared of it.”
Every Monday at 9 a.m., five eighth-grade students walk through NSHS doors with Heather Haffen, NSMS Gear Up coordinator. Haffen gives them a brief tour of the school and outlines what they will learn during the visit.
The tour ends at the Counseling Center, where students meet their future counselor, Chet Kiesel. He briefs them on high school graduation requirements and course options, along with a few words to sum up the formula to high school success.
“The big thing we tell you to do is get involved in high school,” Kiesel said to the five boys who arrived from the middle school that morning. “Whether it’s athletics or clubs, just get involved in anything and have fun here. It will make a big difference.”
Each middle school student is paired up with an NSH student body officer (SBO) who shows them the ropes of high school life for the day. Kids must participate in anything the SBO does. That means if they have a physics test, the future Hawk must take the test, too.
While taking a physics test or mixing chemicals in the chemistry lab can seem intimidating, SBO’s say after the kids get through the day, they seem to feel more at ease.
Another objective of the program, Erickson says, is to give middle school kids a connection to some familiar faces before they attend as a freshman.
Freshman Class President Mason Bailey said he thinks the program is great and wishes it had been implemented before he took his first steps as a high school freshman.
“It makes it less intimidating and helps them get to know classes better. It also lets older kids get to know them, so next year they will recognize them and be friendlier,” Bailey said.
Senior SBO Jackson Blackhurst says he thinks the program can be a fun experience, but it can come with challenges because not all students know what they want out of high school or life.
In one instance, Jackson turned one young kid’s day from being potentially dull, because he was uncertain about school and life, to igniting a spark of enthusiasm for the future.
Jackson said, “I asked the kid what he was interested in and that we’d go sit in during that class. He said he was interested in band, so we went and sat in with the band class. I think he really enjoyed that. You have to find something that they like and show them that there are opportunities to do those things, and branch out to do other things.”
But some eighth-graders, like Marcos Serrano from Moroni, who hopes to play on the soccer team next year, know what they want and why they are participating in Hawk for a Day. “I wanted to make sure I knew my way around the building next year,” Serrano said, echoing something other students have also said.
Because the program is in inception, and it lasts the entire day, Erickson says, thus far, the only kink administrators might run into is middle school students who have less than average grades.
“We don’t want to put them in academic risk,” Erickson said.
But, Haffen says she hopes every eighth-grader will be able to participate, regardless of academic standing.
“We want every student to participate, so if we have to add an extra day, we will figure it out,” Haffen said. “They already have things taken away because of grades, and with Gear Up, we don’t take things away. Everybody should have the opportunity to do this.”
Jackson says this is an important experience for all kids because it lets them know they can do what they want to do, take classes for their career path and ultimately become the people they want to be.
“Find what you want to do and keep that for the rest of your life,” Jackson said.