Helping Freshmen Make the Transition

Our Freshman Success Network partner school Melrose High held its first Freshman Week last month to celebrate the accomplishments and growth of scholars, teachers, and parents. More than 145 students attended during the week, which included virtual, drive-through, and pick-up activities designed to serve as a transition for ninth-grade scholars to get them acclimated to more self-governance for grades 10-12. 

Borrowing from traditional college rite-of-passage ceremonies, the Melrose Freshman Success Team developed Freshman Week events to acknowledge scholars’ fulfillment of sophomore classification criteria and to encourage and inspire them as they look toward the next three years of high school. Goal-setting sessions helped students build out an academic plan for their sophomore year, and the school’s counseling team was on hand to assist with understanding credits and graduation requirements. Meet-and-greet events with the 10-12 teaching staff served to alleviate students’ anxieties about returning to school in the fall with unfamiliar teachers.  Melrose alumni were featured speakers throughout the week, connecting with the students and demonstrating community support for their dreams.  A “Passing the Torch” ceremony provided the departing freshmen with an opportunity to embrace the incoming freshman class and challenged them to continue paving the way for those that follow.

Although preparation was a key goal for Freshmen Week, celebration was also a major theme.  Scholars were recognized each day with special highlights during the virtual college tour and the final honors and attendance rally.  Additionally, 10 parents/families were awarded NOOK tablets for their active participation in meetings and academic activities throughout the year, and teachers were highlighted with “teacher superlatives” and presented with baseball team shirts and gear for summer orientation.

Freshman Week is one of the ways in which the Melrose Freshman Success Team has tried to be more focused about hitting its on-track targets. After some internal review and analysis, the team has learned to use data to leverage teacher strengths and pinpoint areas to build up with professional development opportunities.  Regular meetings with Freshman Success Coach Dr. Nina Reed helped the team to analyze beyond the basic level and to use an inquiry-based approach with their plans. By the third quarter, the Melrose team had an effective system in place and the school’s freshmen-on-track rates reflected their hard work.  With their new, targeted approach and new Freshman Week tradition, Melrose has created a solid foundation for launching its ninth-graders to graduation success.

Stand For Children Tennessee’s Memphis Freshmen Success Network (FSN) works diligently to ensure students in Shelby County Schools have equitable access to quality learning resources and the support ninth-graders need to succeed in their make-or-break year. Since the start of FSN in the 2018-2019 school year, we’ve expanded our partnership to include 20 schools throughout Memphis and Shelby County. Each school has established an on-site Freshmen Learning Academy team that provides the emotional support and resources needed for their students to succeed.

Since students have returned to in-person learning, our partners have gone beyond the call of duty to make that transition as comfortable as possible for students to acclimate to being back in the classroom. From creating on-site academic acountability partnerships to peer led emotional support groups 

Congratulations to all of our FSN Success Teams!  We look forward to continuing this journey with you!

Memphis Freshmen Success Partner Schools

  • Booker T Washington
  • Craigmont
  • Douglass
  • Hamilton
  • Kirby
  • Manassas
  • Melrose
  • Mitchell
  • Oakhaven
  • Raleigh Egypt
  • Sheffield
  • Trezevant
  • Westwood
  • Wooddale
  • MLK Prep
  • Memphis Business Academy
  • Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering
  • Freedom Prep
  • Soulsville
  • Power Center

Douglass High School is one of the partner schools in our Memphis Freshman Success Network.  During the Q2 FSN convening, the Douglass team shared their unique system for keeping freshmen on track.  Called “Check and Connect”, the new system provides a framework for the Douglass Freshman Success Team to identify and champion specific ninth-graders to help them improve their grades.

Check and Connect was created after the school guidance counselor and reset coordinator noticed an increased number of freshmen students with failing grades in two or more subjects due to the ongoing COVID pandemic.  These and other at-risk students were assigned mentors from the administrative and teaching staff who then set up regular check-ins to determine the student’s needs.  The mentors work hard to build relationships with the students to help them reach their academic goals and also provide a sounding board for life in general.  From hard copies of class assignments to extra-credit opportunities and even daily wake-up calls, mentors do whatever they can to assist the students in bringing up their grades.

Once students are back on track – defined as having no more than one failing grade – students are removed from the priority list, and mentor check-ins move to a less frequent maintenance schedule.  This system of one-on-one support has been instrumental in helping Douglass ninth-graders mitigate the effects of the pandemic and keep moving toward their dreams.