Middle school outreach aims to welcome new freshman class

Delaney Brooks, Copy Editor

Counselor Dwayne Peyton gives a presentation about course selection to eighth grade students at Rachel Carson Middle School on Jan. 11. (Photo used with permission of Alexa Scott )

As students select their courses for the coming year, CHS prepares to welcome a new freshman class. Counselors teach middle schoolers about diplomas and course credits so they are well-informed while they make their schedules. Administrators give presentations at Franklin, Rachel Carson and Rocky Run Middle Schools (RRMS) and host welcome events for middle school students and their families before and during course selection throughout January and February. According to CHS counselor Megan Sullivan, CHS counselors are always in contact with those at the middle schools, but this time of year is especially busy. 

“We have put together about an hour presentation,” Sullivan said. “In that presentation, we share information about the classes available to ninth graders. We’ll talk about graduation requirements a bit and then general information about Chantilly, helping them to learn about different clubs, sports, activities that are offered to hopefully get them excited about their ninth grade year.”

Sullivan and the other high school counselors attend at least five events to prepare both future students and their middle school counselors for the course selection process. As one of the main points of contact with middle schools, Sullivan and her fellow counselors hosted a breakfast with counselors from the feeder schools to go over specifics before students choose their classes.

“There’s a lot of different details that we want to firm up and it’s just easier to have a face-to-face conversation,” RRMS counselor Mohammed Zishhan said. “It’s also good to get together and collaborate in real life over food with your colleagues.”

Counselors visited each of the feeder schools to give a presentation about academics, electives, clubs and extracurriculars. They also introduce them to the FCPS course catalog where middle schoolers can find a complete list of available classes. According to RRMS eighth grader Rowan Threadgill, the counselors’ presentation was effective at educating her about her academic options. 

“It was helpful in telling us about what classes are available, what the schedule may look like and how it works,” Threadgill said. “It kind of explains what each of the classes were and the differences between the different math [classes] and World Civ and taking them apart.”

When welcoming middle schoolers, CHS counselors intend to get two main messages across. They recognize that the transition from middle to high school can be intimidating and intend to relieve some of the stress associated with the milestone. They stress that a high school student’s workload is often larger than that of a student in middle school and coach incoming freshmen about deciding when to take an honors class.

“We try to really get across to them the resources that they will have available to them in terms of their counselors, their teachers,” Sullivan said. “Just let them know we’re going to work with them over those next four years and meet with them throughout the year to help support them in whatever goal they want to reach after they graduate.”

For many eighth graders, CHS’s reputation precedes it. Some, Threadgill for example, get to know the school as a fun and welcoming environment from afar via older siblings and friends. 

“Because of what my older siblings have told me, I felt pretty confident, but [the outreach] just secured what I had learned beforehand,” Threadgill said. “I think the main message was just what a positive experience Chantilly is and what it will be instead of seeming like kind of a scary place. My friends really like it. I’m excited.”

I think the main message was just what a positive experience Chantilly is and what it will be instead of seeming like kind of a scary place. My friends really like it. I’m excited.

— RRMS eighth grader Rowan Threadgill

As a middle school counselor, Zishhan enjoys watching his students grow as preparations for the coming school year begin. He sees incoming seventh grade students discover the wonders of middle school while his eighth graders move on to high school. 

“It’s growing up and that’s exciting for everybody,” Zishhan said. “Our students, sometimes they do say it’s very similar, just bigger in high school, but they get to see how much more in depth the clubs get, and the extracurriculars and the resources that are available. It is exciting to see it on both ends when you’re in the middle. I definitely love that they’re so excited for high school, there’s also a lot of great memories and a lot of tears at the end of the year for our rising ninth graders.”