by The Milton Measure on Friday, September 16th, 2011
Coming into a new environment is difficult, especially at the socially awkward age of fourteen. At Milton, this transition is made harder by the additional pressure of transferring to a boarding community. It is further exacerbated by the pre-existing relationships brought up from middle school.
Granted, there are a few programs in place which aim to soften this difficult change. Chief among them is the Transition program, which caters only to self-identified “students of color.” While the program is a huge success, we must still address the remaining 59% of the school.
There are other programs which do include everyone, such as class day and freshmen orientation; however, these programs fall short of replicating the success of Transition among the general student body, largely due to time constraints. Today at class day seniors reached out to freshmen, juniors explored Boston, and sophomores aided the greater Milton community. Yet these activities, while fun and helpful, are too abbreviated to make a lasting impact. The day encourages class unity, but four hours is not enough to make this a reality.
Likewise, freshman orientation fails to unify the incoming class. With a focus on school rules, the current program serves a practical purpose of orienting, but little else. Freshmen have the ability to take initiative by attending clubs and participating in extra-curricular activities. Those less adept in reaching out, however, could benefit from a more substantial program like Transition.
In order to remedy this problem, we must first examine what it is that makes Transitions succeed where these other programs fail.
For the last week of summer, the Transition program annually immerses approximately 50 minority students in the Milton experience; they attend classes, sleep in the dorms, and explore Boston. Transition allows these students to connect and relate to people from similar and different backgrounds. Before the official school year begins, they will have developed a much needed safety net to help them thrive at Milton as a minority–many today relate that they would not have made it past freshman year without the bonds they formed at the Transition program.
We have seen the successes of Transition, but there is still a gap to be filled. We seniors often forget that Milton can be a daunting place for new students, and with classes starting days after arrival to the school, it can be a challenge to integrate into the pre-existing community. Milton needs a program, one longer and more comprehensive than the existing traditions of class day and Saturday morning orientation, in order to confront this challenge.
That being said, we do not need to replicate something along the lines of BB&N’s “Bivouac,” an intense twelve day retreat for new students in the wilderness of New Hampshire. Instead, we need to find a happy medium where students are given the opportunity to bond with one another outside the traditional confines of the academic day.
What we are proposing is something along the lines of Junior Leadership Weekend (JLW) where Class II students spend two days outside of the school, bonding with one another and preparing to be the student leaders of the school.
Over Labor Day weekend, the entire freshmen class should undergo a similar experience. While in diverse cabin groups, new students will play trust building games, discuss the difficulties of freshman year, and have fun.
It is our belief that, if such a program is implemented, many of the issues left unaddressed by the current system of freshman orientation can be remedied. If this orientation is realized, freshmen will have greater opportunity to form lasting friendships that will hopefully outlive their time at Milton.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=1441