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Caption: LA Juniors (and GSB graduates) Sam Bailey and Elise Dumont give a tour of a snowy Lincoln Academy to visiting eighth graders from Great Salt Bay School.

Every year in the month of February, Lincoln Academy hosts eighth grade students from all the area sending schools for an orientation. The goal of the event to learn about what is in store for them in high school.

“The 8th grade orientation is designed to provide students with a better understanding of all of the opportunities Lincoln Academy has to offer them, both in and out of the classroom, says Sarah Wills-Viega, Lincoln Academy’s Director of Counseling and Studies. “Through their interactions with upperclassmen, faculty and staff, we see nervousness around this big step give way to excitement, and we, too, get excited about the arrival of the next class.”

It seems to be working. Great Salt Bay eighth grader Sam Russ commented, “Before the bus got to Lincoln, high school seemed far away, but once we were there, and had the tour, it all of a sudden felt really close! We are actually going to go to high school!”

Upperclass LA students lead 8th graders on a campus tour.

Upperclass LA students lead 8th graders on a campus tour.

During their orientation students have a campus tour led by upperclass students. After the tour, students gather in Lincoln Academy’s Poe Theater to learn more about the process ahead. Guidance counselors, faculty members, and current students all help orient the incoming students.

During one visit made up of students from Great Salt Bay, Guidance counselors Sarah Wills-Viega, Cynde Farrill, and Jeremy Marks offered information pertaining to class registration and the transition from middle to high school. Visiting students learned about the Lincoln Academy schedule and credit requirements. They learned that they will have the same faculty advisor for four years, and they will meet with this advisor and fellow their advisory group students every day. They learned that if they hope to attend college, they are advised to take more courses than are required to graduate, including foreign language (which is offered but not required for graduation), and more than two years of science and history.

From student tour guides and staff members the eighth graders also learned about the LA culture: about Friday Community Meeting and what happens if you are tardy. They learned about the challenges of balancing sports and academics, and the benefits of joining clubs.

In the words of guidance counselor Jeremy Marks, “At Lincoln we encourage you to not only push yourselves academically, but also to be committed to something, to stick with something for a good portion of your high school career, whether that is a team, a club, or community service project. Push yourself! Get outside your comfort zone! This is the way you will grow. This is what colleges want to see.”

Upperclass students collect questions that 8th graders submitted anonymously.

Upperclass students collect questions that 8th graders submitted anonymously.

Eighth graders had the chance to ask questions anonymously by writing them on scraps of paper. Their questions were answered by the panel of 12 student guides. Students asked about finding someone to sit with at lunch, and how hard it is to find friends in general. LA Junior Sam Bailey offered, “I didn’t have many friends at GSB, but I have tons of friends at Lincoln. I guarantee you can find friends here. It’s such a mix of different people; everyone finds friends quickly. Getting involved [in clubs and teams] helps in finding friends, and finding your place here.”

There were several questions about the high school workload, specifically, whether it is worth risking potentially lower grades in honors courses or going for higher grades in easier courses. Of course, there is no single answer for all students. Senior Danielle Pinkham advised, “If you are going to take honors classes–and I think you should!–be prepared for a lot of homework. But as long as you keep up with your work it’s not that hard to get good grades, even in honors classes.”

“Don’t get behind in your work,” continued senior Angus Fake. “Talk to your teachers about their late policies, and talk to them ahead of time if you have something big coming up like a game or another conflict. They will work with you!”

Three eighth grade students won LA t-shirts by answering trivia questions correctly during orientation.

Three eighth grade students won LA t-shirts by answering trivia questions correctly during orientation.

Students also asked about the new boarding program. Thanh Tran, an LA senior from Vietnam, gave an overview. “The resident program is a new program here, it is in its second year. Students from all over the world are here at Lincoln Academy. A lot of you will be able to find friends in the program, and they might invite you to dinner, which has awesome food.” A student asked what Thanh thinks of the Maine winter. “I love Maine so much!” said Thanh. I don’t like the hot weather in my country, and here we have snow days, which is awesome!”

What did the eighth graders take away from the orientation? “I’m excited,” said Sam Russ. “As soon as we got back to school all my friends were talking about what classes we wanted to take in high school, and what it is going to be like. GSB is great, but everyone is ready for high school, ready for the big change that is happening. It’s crazy, and a little hard to describe, but I think everyone is ready!”