9th graders get a ‘Fresh Start’ at ULHS

Ashley Biles and Larry Stanford

September 21, 2013

Upson-Lee High School held its second annual Fresh-Start ceremony Tuesday morning for 9th grade students. The program, sponsored by Balfour, is designed to both encourage and challenge new 9th grade students to stay focused and stay on track while working toward their graduation year of 2017.

Incoming 9th grade students go into the “9th Grade Academy,” which helps them ease the transition from middle school to high school. The Fresh Start program is part of that transition.

The 392 freshmen watched a video and heard from 2012 Upson-Lee graduate Kenni Zellner, who emphasized the importance of getting started on the right track in the 9th grade.

“Freshstart is an excellent name for the program in my opinion,” said Zellner. “In the 9th grade you can make it or break it. It is the time to set high school on the right path.”

They also heard from senior Ashton Hosta about keeping their grades up.

“High school is extremely important and you cannot let your grades slip,” said Hosta. “Don’t think just because you are a freshman that your GPA or grades do not matter. Don’t let this be the year that holds you back. High school is one of the best times of your life.”

During the program, the students filled out forms with their goals and dreams for 2017. Those forms will be sealed and placed inside a time capsule. Four years from now, the time capsule will be opened and the forms returned to the students so they can see how well they have done.

The students also took turns signing two graduation gowns. The boys signed one and the girls signed the other. The gowns will be placed in the school to remind the students of their commitment to graduate in May 2017. The students also signed a pledge and received a blue “graduation” ring to remind them of their goals on a daily basis.

Assistant Principal Michael Hoffman is in charge of the 9th Grade Academy, and said the Fresh Start program is a great opportunity for freshmen to see what their next four years are going to be like.

“I think it is a great opportunity for 9th grade students to see that other students who have been through the experience of being a 9th grader and the whole high school experience, providing an opportunity to hear some of our students speak who have been through that is beneficial for them,” said Hoffman. “Plus, the video that we show them gives them some ideas of what challenges they are going to face and what things that they are going to need to do in order to be successful throughout their high school experience. I think it is invaluable. I don’t know if we can actually quantify how much impact it has on them this year and their next three years, but I know that it plays a part in the success we’re having in the 9th Grade Academy.”