EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Incoming freshmen at East Grand Rapids High School don’t have to be nervous about going through the stereotypical experience of upperclassmen picking on them. That’s because the seniors at EGR High School don’t haze, rather, they help through a program called Freshmen Connection.
“I remember being nervous before I went to Freshman Connection, but right as I walked in, I felt so included when all of the leaders made a tunnel and were cheering for us,” Wini Zawacki recalled about starting high school four years ago.
She’s a senior now, passing on that goodwill to her younger classmates like Preston Bergstrom and Macy Brown, who were both worried about getting lost in such a big building.
“They showed us around the senior bench, the senior bathrooms, stuff like that and they showed us how to check out books,” Preston said.
The bench Preston mentioned is a rite of passage that’s been around since the school opened. Seniors get to sign their names on it as they graduate, and you get students to stay away out of respect.
That’s one of the many tidbits of knowledge the kids get during their Freshmen Connection orientation before the first week of school.
Oliver Shapton is also a senior leader this year who enjoyed helping to make the freshmen feel as comfortable as he was made to feel.
“We meet the freshmen outside, mingle with them, then we go through the tunnel where we’re cheering for them and stuff,” he said. “Then we do the tour of the high school and help them find their text books.”
There was pizza and ice cream, too, because who doesn’t bond over comfort food?
By the end of the day, kids who started out shy and quiet end up joking and laughing together, excited to start the year.
The school used to run the program but now it’s run through the Leadership and Youth Development organization, which is 100% volunteer- and student-led and relies on donations for support.
You can read more about the organization and other programs it sponsors at egrlyd.org/.