MCHS DogPack welcomes young students into the high school family
Entering high school as a freshman can be a daunting — and oftentimes overwhelming — part of adolescence, but one group at Moffat County High School aims to ease that transition for ninth graders.
MCHS’s DogPack, a group of 23 upperclassmen, aims to ease recent middle school graduates into the culture of high school. Through building tours and meetings throughout the year, members make connections and build relationships with younger students who might need guidance coming into their freshman year.
Earlier this semester, MCHS counselor and DogPack adviser Lara Sigmon said that freshman orientation is the biggest event for both DogPack members and the ninth graders they advise. DogPack leaders organize games and discussions about what to expect when becoming an MCHS student.
“We want there to be no surprises for them,” Sigmon said. “Before they even get on campus the first day, they know the routine and their schedules. They know the ins and outs, and we try to minimize the surprises on the first day. We also talk about what to do if you’re going to the wrong class and things like that. We really just try to normalize the first day.”
Kasen Tansey, a senior member of the group, said that orientation involves transitioning parents, as well. DogPack members divided into subcommittees to begin planning for the event months in advance, and, after some COVID-19 regulations were lifted, the group came back full force in order to serve the new freshman class. Tansey said this was to make sure they can cover any concern or question brought up that day.
“My favorite part of being in DogPack has been being able to see how the freshmen grow throughout the year,” he said. “They’re scared and nervous and don’t know what to expect. But now, they are not scared and have set goals for things they want to accomplish in high school. It’s amazing to see how you can impact someone like that.”
DogPack members also organize helping new students to MCHS — not just freshmen — adjust to their new schedule and classes. Last Monday, Tansey gave a tour to a new student at MCHS. Being a DogPack member, he said, is all about inclusivity and engagement.
“If you need help, we’re here to help,” senior Ashley Duran, a member of DogPack, said.
DogPack often meets with freshmen advisory groups, or groups of students that go over topics like graduation expectations and class scheduling. Duran has been part of her advisory group since she was a freshman and is now a DogPack member that visits these advisory groups to help this year’s freshmen. She’s gotten close to several other students who have been in her group since ninth grade, and she credited some of that to the connection-building activities that DogPack members did with her and her group three years ago.
“We do different activities with them like games and get-to-know-you stuff. This month, we’re doing activities on how to prepare for finals and things like that,” Duran said. “People look up to the seniors because they got through it, and (freshmen) start to think they can, too.”
Duran added that she joined DogPack in order to help freshmen get through one of the hardest times of growing up. She said one of her favorite memories of being in the group was in October
“I’m not a super social person, and I wanted to get myself out there,” she said. “I wanted to join because I struggled as a freshman, so I know how hard it can be. I had DogPack as well when I was in ninth grade, and I got to know my advisor really well. Now I’m super close with some of them. It’s just a good way to connect.”
Not only do members connect with freshmen, they do so with the entire student body, Neveah Allen said. They work closely with other student groups like the student council to help build school spirit and boost morale. By collaborating with different student groups, Allen said, it creates a more cohesive school culture. Even within DogPack, members come from various backgrounds, experiences and interests that help them find common ground with any student they come in contact with.
“It’s such a fun environment to be around people who want to make the school a better place,” Allen said. “We really get to know the freshmen that we advise, and iIt gives us a chance to get close with people we probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t really have classes with freshmen, so it’s cool that I can become close with my group.”
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