The week before GDS high school officially starts, all incoming freshmen are treated to a two-day orientation. Although this orientation is most freshmen’s first introduction to the building, it is none of their first formal introductions to GDS. For some, that first introduction came in the Lower/Middle school, whether in kindergarten, eighth grade or any year in between. And for the students that are joining the GDS community for high school, their first introduction to GDS was the week-long bridge program, “Hop in to GDS,” two weeks before freshmen orientation. This program, often referred to as “bridge week,” is much more useful than the regular GDS orientation.
“Hop in to GDS” may not ring any bells for current GDS juniors and seniors, as the program, in its current iteration, is only two years old. This bridge program is much more robust than the regular freshman orientation, and features things like mock classes and basic introductions to tools available to GDS students, from school-assigned emails to the library.
Another main goal of the bridge program is to introduce new students to one another before they are thrust into a new and unfamiliar social scene alongside students who have been attending GDS for years. Ninth Grade Dean Abe Pachikara mentioned that this function of the orientation is incredibly essential.
“When kids outside the GDS middle school come in with the kids who are coming from the middle school they are at a social disadvantage in the sense that they don’t have those ties that the kids that are coming in with.” Pachikara went on to say that “the bridge program does a good job of giving them a leg up, and kind of leveling the playing field in that sense.”
Freshman Stella Tongour felt that this program succeeded in helping new freshmen feel integrated into GDS. ”Bridge week was really helpful,” she said, “it really got me acclimated to the school and I think when I came to orientation I was way more prepared than I would have been if I – without it.”
Because “Hop in to GDS” primarily serves to introduce students to the social and cultural aspects of the school, the administration believes that bridge week would not be as useful to students coming from the GDS middle school. “It’s not like we give away some secret to success at GDS,” said Dean of Academic Life Bobby Asher, “It’s much more a look at how our culture plays out.”
Bridge week renders actual freshman orientation relatively useless. The freshmen coming from new schools have already been introduced to the high school facility through the bridge week. The freshmen coming from GDS are already familiar with the schools digital facilities and are already relatively acclimated to GDS’s culture and quirks.
One intended purpose of freshman orientation was to take school fingerprints and pictures, but this ended up happening on the first day of school. Additionally, although freshman orientation is meant to allow students coming up from the middle school to get a better sense of their new surroundings and learn about the high school’s facilities, the one day provided is simply not enough. And because the program sits right in the middle of staff week, the length of this program also can’t be extended. The short span of the program renders it relatively useless compared to bridge week.
Although both programs have some merit, bridge week is by far superior, and orientation is primarily redundant.
By: Adam Leff’22