GOSHEN, N.Y.– About 400 students from across Orange County streamed into Burke Catholic High School Friday, Sept. 8 for the first full day of school, with upperclassmen helping freshmen ease into the new environment for a smooth start to the 2017/2018 school year.
Unlike public schools, where incoming freshmen are part of a graduating class of middle schoolers, ninth graders at the Goshen school come from various public and Catholic schools from around the region. The first full day of school is a time when they familiarize themselves with a sea of new faces in a new building.
Among the upperclassman-freshman pairings were Ariana Panizzi, a senior, and Alexandra Waldman, a freshman. Panizzi introduced Waldman to Burke Catholic on Wednesday, which was freshman orientation day. They are both part of the Burke Catholic cheerleading team.
“I was pretty nervous and confused because I had no idea where to go, and I didn’t know anybody,” said Waldman, who came to Burke Catholic from Tuxedo Park School.
“Then, Ariana came along and took me under her wing. Now, I know where to go, and I have a new friend.”
Panizzi said she was giving back as part of the decades-old Peer Connection tradition at Burke Catholic. “I had a senior show me around when I was a freshman,” said Panizzi, who was at Waldman’s side on the first full day of school. “I wanted to do for her what was done for me.”
As part of Peer Connection this year, 95 volunteer upperclassmen made it their job to make the 93 new Eagles feel welcome in the Burke Catholic Family. They guided freshmen through the hallways into their classrooms, helped them open and close their lockers, and familiarized them with the various clubs and sports teams. Their responsibilities included making sure no student ate lunch alone.
“It gives my upperclassmen a leadership role and it instills a sense of responsibility in them,” said Jo Ellen Nemeth, Director of Guidance. “For the younger ones, it lessens the anxiety and they get an instant friend on the first day of school.”
The new school year was also a new beginning for John Douthit and Janice Clark, former Burke Catholic students who have worked at the school for many years but were recently appointed Principal for Operations and Principal for Academics respectively.
Earlier in the day, Douthit stood outside in the crisp morning air, welcoming students dressed in the Burke Catholic signature blue, with words of encouragement and care.
“Make sure you go to the nurse right away and get a Band-Aid for that,” Douthit said after noticing a student had a cut on his finger.
Inside, the corridors buzzed with energy as students walked through corridors that bore handwritten welcome notes for new students. But soon, students settled in for a full day of classes and activities. By the end of the day, all students had received iPads loaded with curriculum and lesson plans that teachers had worked on over the summer.
“We are thrilled that the school year is off to such a great start,” said Clark. “We both know what it feels like to be a new student because both of us were freshmen once at Burke Catholic.”
Later this month, Burke Catholic will hold its annual New Parent Cocktail Party, an evening at which parents who are new to the school can meet other new parents, faculty and staff.
To learn more about John S. Burke Catholic High School, visit www.BurkeCatholic.com .
Photo caption 1: Freshmen and upperclassmen eat lunch together on the first full day of school at Burke Catholic High School.
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