by Lisa Tome
Allison Smeltzer is slightly nervous about middle school.
She sat at North East Middle recently during the Jump Start orientation program with a group of incoming sixth graders learning to overcome fears such as being late to class, staying organized, and making new friends.
"I haven't opened a locker in years and I didn't get it on the first try," said Smeltzer.
Unlike the rest of those enrolled in Jump Start, Smeltzer isn't a student. She's a brand new guidance counselor.
Smeltzer, who formerly taught at Elkton High, has a new job. To make her job easier, she opted to attend Jump Start as a way to learn the middle school ropes and meet students.
"I can understand why they're nervous. It's a big change," said Smeltzer.
Bobbie Burke and Barbara Styer teach Jump Start. They explained that four two-day sessions are held during the summer months. Students can opt to attend the session that best fits their schedule. It also gets them ready for the first day.
"The locker fear is tremendous. You put them in front of a locker and they are scared to death," said Styer.
Burke said that in addition to the locker fear, students are fearful of being lost or late to class, not knowing anyone since five elementary schools feed into the school, and more.
There are many games and activities geared to helping. Burke said. There's a whole lesson on coping with first day jitters. There's a Bingo game to help make friends, lessons in reading a schedule, homework tips, a scavenger hunt, and crafts. Jump Start attendees learned to make a pencil box from recycled juice boxes. Volunteers from the school's National Junior Honor Society also turned out to provide building tours.
"After a couple weeks, they're fine. Parents also have a huge fear of middle school. They're scared to death," said Burke. "This is a worthwhile program."