By Michael Eng | Managing Editor
Durant High School Spanish teacher Virginia Miller’s classroom is abuzz with nervous laughter. It’s still weeks before the first official day of school, but the lessons in this class — the Greater Access Plan camp — are critically important for this particular group: incoming freshmen.
Hillsborough County Public School’s GAP camp utilizes the expertise of current high school students to help rising ninth-graders integrate into their new school. On the first day of Durant’s camp, the freshmen embarked on a scavenger hunt through the campus to help them find their bearings.
Then, back in Miller’s classroom, the veteran high-schoolers teamed up with the freshmen to help construct a map of the school campus.
“I learned what the school looked like,” says incoming freshman Emily Stitt following the exercise.
In addition to school geography, the first day of GAP featured a “What Not to Wear” fashion show detailing Durant’s dress code and learning some of the school cheers. The goal, Durant’s GAP lead teacher Courtney Singletary says, is to give incoming freshmen a head start on high-school life that, ultimately, will allow them to concentrate more fully on academics.
“The program is designed to ease the transition from middle to high school and acclimate the students to Advance Placement courses, student life and college options,” Singletary says.
Singletary has run the Durant program for the last six years.
“I see a need to reach freshmen so they avoid the pitfalls and can be successful,” she says. “(In addition), it is so much fun. Lastly, I’m competitive and proud of Durant. Our numbers top other schools year after year. We’ve built a hugely popular and successful program.”
Plus, Miller says, it instills a sense of belonging.
“Once they come through this (GAP), they have much more of a connection with the school,” Miller says.
The GAP camp is offered at 27 Hillsborough high schools, including Plant City and Strawberry Crest.