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Jackets rally to start the year off right

Students at Forest Hills High School started their new school year just a little differently this time. Of course, they still went to all their classes, heard their teachers’ expectations, and greeted their friends they hadn’t seen all summer.

But they also participated in the first ever FHHS Back to School Rally, a combination of informational and spirit-building activities designed to get every student’s year off on the right foot. That approach lines up with the school’s guiding motto “Each Jacket, Every Day.”

Principal Kevin Plue explained the purpose of the rally. “The Back to School Rally is a new effort this year to build some momentum and excitement at the beginning of the year that will hopefully translate throughout. We want our students to be enthusiastic about school. Sometimes the first day routine can take a little of that excitement away. By taking some time at the end of the day to show our students that we as adults can have fun and that we are happy to be back will hopefully be a model for our students.”

“There are a lot of opportunities in school other than just showing up and taking classes that can be just as important," he said. "We know students who get involved in extracurricular activities make better grades and graduate at a higher rate than those who do not. We want to start right from the beginning introducing our students to those opportunities and getting them engaged in them.”

Students get to know each other in activities with one-third of their grade at a time. Students moved through a well-planned rotation. For some parts, they were with their whole classes, but for one session, each grade divided into three parts by alphabet, the same way they are divided and assigned to an administrator and a counselor. For that session, students met with their counselor and their administrator to focus on what they needed to do this year to be successful. Each group also had some icebreaker activities to get to know their small group better.

Assistant Principal Adrien Porter said that he found that part particularly valuable. "I think it was good for the alphabet groups to meet together, and we even put down some challenges to get them working together. I think that is going to be something that we administrators and counselors can build on to make connections with our students."

Then two classes at a time attended a pep rally where they heard a motivational speaker, teamed up in different contests against the faculty, and learned what that Jacket Spirit is all about. The third aspect of the rally was the interactive club fair where students, one grade level at a time, were able to stop by tables set up by different clubs to sign up or just to see what each one is about. Student members and advisers were there to answer questions about their clubs.

The idea for the rally was put forth by Student Council adviser and social studies teacher, Mr. Bryan Rudolph. He said that the idea came from an idea sharing session that he attended during the National Student Council Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota this summer. Of course, it was customized to meet our needs at Forest Hills, but the purpose remained the same. The purpose, Mr. Rudolph said, was “to promote a positive school climate and culture, not just within the classroom, but throughout the whole entire building.” He gave the example that teachers on the first day instead of just going over policies, procedures, and learning contracts offered activities that worked to build the class cohesiveness and bring students together. Because of the rally’s rotating schedule," he said, "we were able to get in things that would normally take several days of homeroom." Rudolph also felt that the rally’s interactive aspect empowered students and teachers, something that goes right along with a commitment to each Jacket, every day.

The intense planning and organization helped  the day go off without a hitch, and Rudolph as well as teachers and administrators feel that this is the beginning of a new Jacket tradition. Rudolph even received a recognition from Dr. Plue at the first staff celebration of the year for the idea and all the hard work and planning that made the Back to School Rally such a success.

Students check out the Student Council booth at the Interactive Club Fair