Seniors give freshmen a friendly welcome to Hudson High School
The scene in the Hudson High School cafeteria Monday evening represented a major improvement in relations between seniors and freshmen.
Between 80 and 90 members of the senior class showed up to welcome the freshmen to the school and help them find their way around the building.
Contrast that to a few years ago when principals were warning seniors not to physically abuse freshmen during homecoming activities - or to the recent case in Hastings, Minn., where five 17-year-old boys are accused of beating at least nine incoming freshmen as part of a hazing tradition.
The 80 or so Hudson seniors who volunteered five hours of their time Monday night are part of a Senior Mentor program started last year. In all, 140 of the 357 members of the class of 2004 have signed up to participate in the program over the course of the school year.
Those who could attend Monday night's activities picked up their uniforms (fluorescent yellow T-shirts), ate pizza and listened to Principal Ed Lucas explain the program expectations.
Pairs of mentors were then introduced to small groups of freshmen attending Freshman Orientation Night with their parents. The seniors helped the freshmen find their classrooms so they wouldn't get lost when classes started Thursday.
The evening concluded with a dance. The alternative rock band Abnormality - comprised of HHS students Peter Baker, Nick Protz, Zach Schwalbach, Marshall Fassino and Karl Zwiefelhofer - provided the music. (The group has a Web site at www.abnormalityrock.com.)
Lucas said there are senior mentors that freshmen can go to for advice or tutoring in all of the study halls this year. Mentors will assist freshmen in other ways, too, he said, without specifying them.
"It's all about building relationships," Lucas said.
The Senior Mentor program started last school year with a smaller number of seniors participating.
"We wanted to eliminate the problems that we were having with homecoming," Lucas said. "And this was the solution - engaging seniors in something meaningful."
Assistant Principal Dennis Toll said the seniors have volunteered for the program "out of the goodness of their hearts."
"They're just good kids," he said.
Senior Rebecca Roeglin said she volunteered for the program to help incoming freshmen feel more comfortable than she did coming into the school.
"I got lost. It was kind of overwhelming," she said. "There were so many people. (I was) thinking all the seniors were going to be mean."
Randy Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.