AUBURN — What is it like to be a freshman entering a big school and be inexperienced in the worldly ways of upperclassmen?
It is easy to feel insecure, scared and lost.
“The building can be so intimidating for freshmen,” said Edward Little High School teacher and coach Craig Jipson. “They start to feel, ‘Everybody knows what they’re doing except me.’”
To help minimize insecurities, Lewiston High School and Edward Little continued its back-to-school tradition Wednesday of freshman orientation day. Ninth-graders had the schools to themselves. Elementary and middle school students also went back to school Wednesday.
On Thursday, sophomores, juniors and seniors return to school.
At Edward Little, the class of 237 freshmen was helped by administrators and 75 upperclassmen mentors. The message of the day included respect for all, advice on how to be successful, even funny, and tips from seniors on what not to wear.
As music played, Kendall Mathieu, the fashion show student master of ceremonies, held the microphone and described what other students modeled.
“We have some bad guys here,” she said as students strutted the “runway,” the middle of the hot gymnasium.
The students wore tube tops that revealed stomachs, skimpy shorts and tops with underwear showing or shorts that were too short.
“I don’t know where to start,” Mathieu said, pretending to be dismayed. “This is very inappropriate! I don’t want to see any cheeks that aren’t on your face.”
She dismissed them with, “Thank you, but I never want to see it again.”
That was followed by students modeling appropriate school attire: sweaters, dresses or skirts, shorts and shirts that covered what should be covered, and by students “rocking the athletic wear.”
Mathieu smiled approvingly.
Assistant Principal Craig Latusha gave a talk on “what it means to be an Eddie,” encouraging freshmen to embrace school spirit, attend games and drama performances, and help one another out.
“We’re a family. We do for others,” Latusha said. “Black or white, short or tall, gay or straight, you name it. Respect all.”
Students were also told Edward Little no longer calls Lewiston fans and athletes “The Dirty Lew.”
“That is not acceptable,” Assistant Principal Eric Gray said, adding there is no yelling at referees and no use of alcohol and other drugs.
Gray reminded students they are representing Edward Little during school events and must be role models.
The day included skits on how to act in classrooms, hallways and the cafeteria, and at athletic events.
Oliver Hall, 17, a senior, was one of the 75 mentors. When he was a freshman, he said, he entered the gym and remembered it feeling chaotic and overwhelming.
Hall said freshmen, especially those who are not on a team or involved in a club, can feel a little lost. He said he hoped orientation day gave students “the sense that this is a welcoming community. We want them all to succeed.”
Freshmen Gavin LePage said he appreciated the day. It helped reduce the “freshman buzz, the butterflies that most freshmen feel during this time.” High school is different than middle school, LePage said, adding, “I’m excited for the adventure.”
Freshman Emilee MacPeek said the orientation helped emphasize rules.
“It gives you a look a look into what it’s going to be like at EL,” she said. “It seems like a good school so far.”
Like many high schools, Edward Little has counselors, guidance officers, administrators and others to help students, Jipson said.
“This is a great day to let them know, ‘We’re on your side,'” he said.
The welcoming day for freshmen is dramatically different from what freshmen faced decades ago, when Jipson first walked into Edward Little.
“The upperclassmen made us gobble,” he said. “They threw things at us — all this hazing. Kids can be so mean. Nowadays, these kids really care about these younger kids.”