Uncovering Community: Understanding the Transition of New Students


Tamara Houck and Daisey Marciano

You walk in through the basement door of the school building, “hey are you new?” someone behind you asks. You nod. Once you get through the door they ask for your student ID, “it’s my first day” you hear someone say, realizing it’s yourself. You take the long trek up to where you hope the main office is, and then to Joe’s office to pick up your schedule. All these numbers on the schedule are supposed to mean something to you. 


Every year WESS opens its doors to a flood of new students, specifically this year where WESS welcomed 30 new students into the 9th grade in addition to those in others. Everyone remembers what it’s like being a new kid at a new school, now imagine that times 10 because everyone already knows each other. Finding your way around WESS’s windy hallways can be a challenge, even more difficult could be meeting new people and making friends. 

Based on interviews collected, new students had trouble finding their way around on the first couple of days of school. However, as they adapted and got used to the school, their comfort levels increased. The average student comfort level now is 7.9 out of 10, with 10 being super comfortable navigating through WESS. Tammy Calvo, the guidance counselor, revealed that “We have reviewed their school schedule with them independently”, in order to help new students find their way during the transition to a new school. 


Although meeting new people is a challenge, at WESS we focus on community and team building activities, which bring students together and puts them more at ease. According to our data, students feel that in terms of creating an environment that fosters meeting new people, the school scored a 7.5 out of 10 from the new students’ stance. We predict that this score will increase throughout the progression of the school year. The school’s guidance counselor, Tammy, stated that in order to support this, the school “connected new students to a peer buddy, crews, and school staff.”  Additionally, during the first week of school, students bonded with their crews for 3 hours each day, allowing everyone to express their feelings for the year, building a supportive community.  


According to Psychology Today, students who are in grades 5 and below tend to do better emotionally transitioning from one school to another. This is because they have an easier time adapting to new social surroundings. For high schoolers this is more difficult because most people have already found “their people” and are less likely to reach out. After the emotional transition, the academic one follows. Tammy explained that “once students are able to connect to the school culture and meet the school staff, they begin to feel supported and academically successful” which can be sped up through “routine, structure, and social interaction,” playing a “instrumental role in emotional well being of students.” Tammy reports that at WESS “we do our best to have these structures in place as well as  promoting character development, life skills, organizational skills, and having a safe space to talk to a school staff at the school building.” 


If you’re having a difficult time adapting to WESS, here are some of our suggestions. Join extracurricular activities at WESS, like sports or clubs of your interest. Participation in school events is also highly encouraged so you get to know teachers and students better. WESS Side Stories is going to be publishing updates on events, so we suggest checking it often to see what’s going on at WESS. If you’re feeling lost, don’t hesitate to seek help from your peers or teachers, as the odds are very high that they’ll be more than happy to help out. 


We have high hopes for the new students at WESS and welcome them with open arms to the school!