Freshmen inevitably have questions and concerns about starting high school. Some ask older friends or siblings for advice, but many others lack such connections with upperclassmen. The IMPACT program at University High School aims to provide every freshman with the answers they seek and to develop connections between students from different classes. IMPACT team leaders and mentors meet with their assigned groups of freshmen regularly during office hours from the beginning of the school year until November. The meetings, or “connections,” help freshmen transition from middle school to become valuable members of the University High School (UHS) community. “IMPACT is a good way for freshmen to get involved and to adjust to high school,” said program organizer Sahil Lamba (Sr.). A typical IMPACT connection begins with discussion on a topic such as responsibility, balance or respect for diversity. The mentors ask relevant questions to the freshmen to help them consider various aspects of these important subjects. The group then plays a bonding game like character trait BINGO or Mafia. Freshmen are often given food or candy as incentives and sometimes have time to work on homework. The final connection for this school year was a few weeks ago.
In a program launched last year, the IMPACT Games, IMPACT groups compete against each other. They earn points for attendance and participation in events like a dodgeball tournament and a Chalk Draw competition. IMPACT Mentor Megan McKown’s (Sr.) group won the competition this year. “Our group was successful this year because we enjoyed spending time together and getting to know each other,” McKown said. “When I was a freshman, my sister was a senior. I relied on her to help me with any questions that I had regarding classes, clubs or school traditions. As IMPACT mentors, we can play a similar role when working with the freshmen.”
As a result of this new program, rules regarding IMPACT attendance are stricter than they were several years ago. This has caused some issues since both freshmen and mentors may miss test make-ups or give up time to work on homework during office hours. When asked whether IMPACT connections are helpful, Luke Ruan (Fr.) said, “Not really.” He did say that he enjoyed the food and homework time he often got at the meetings.
Ruan and Andrew Nguyen (Fr.) agreed, however, that IMPACT “was good at registration.” At registration, mentors guided freshmen around the UHS campus, showing them important locations and ensuring they do not become lost on the first day of school.
Despite some frustration with the program, IMPACT mentor Bhavana Seelam (Sr.) said, “IMPACT is a way for the school to help the freshmen connect to [UHS]. It is the link that binds freshmen to the school in the beginning of the school year.”
By EMMA REMY