FRESHMEAT STARTING OFF STRONG

PHS Kicks-Off New First-Day Program for Class of 2026

Emma Johnson

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Hayden Keever
Junior+Emma+Johnson+and+Seeger+Wormald+pose+with+their+%E2%80%98Teal+Group%E2%80%99+for+a+selfie+challenge+on+the+first+day+of+school.+

Emma Johnson

Junior Emma Johnson and Seeger Wormald pose with their ‘Teal Group’ for a selfie challenge on the first day of school.

When it comes to freshman year, the transition can be pretty stressful, and maybe even a little surreal. From the overwhelming pressure of commuting to a new school to having to manage all of your classes, one can assume that the incoming class of 2026 has a lot on their plates.

But with the inaugural year of a new program titled Character Strong, the freshmen are being exposed to a familiar concept of acceptance and what it truly means to be a PHS Panther. 

From following a theme that dictated their first day of school outfit to spending hours outside for activities, the counseling office conluded that something needed to change from the status quo. 

“We felt that it [Ignition Program] had run its course, and based off of the feedback we had been getting from the past couple of years, there was a lot to take in on the first day,” student counselor Mr. Trevor Lee said. “We felt that in the counseling office that the ignition program had great intentions when it started but now the message had gotten lost over the years. Part of our counseling office’s job is to analyze the data and adjust so we made the decision to move on to something else.”

As the guidance office made the decision to go out with the old and in with the new, there was another part of the puzzle they had to consider: training the new and returning mentors, which meant reevaluating the plan used for the past decade. 

We really liked the idea of building better human beings all around. It’s not just for people who are shy or just the freshmen. We want all of our high school students to get the skills to be better leaders and better communicators. ”

— Mr. Trevor Lee

“We spent more time with our freshmen groups and getting to know them,” senior Katie Beavers said. “The first day of school differed from when I was a freshmen because we didn’t spend as much time outside doing activities; we spent more time with our freshmen groups and getting to know them. I think it was important to do this because a lot of freshmen the last few years don’t feel like the outdoor activities were beneficial.”

After hours spent in the high school library during the summer in preparation for the new program, the first day of school officially started at 8:00 A.M. on August 23. Following the Character Strong lesson plan, the upperclassmen mentors were able to incorporate a mixture of fun activities and serious conversations on promoting a positive environment.

“We are so glad that Character Strong came into our laps, and I hope that this new program will help build a better community here in our high school,” Mr. Lee said.  “We really liked the idea of building better human beings all around. It’s not just for people who are shy or just the freshmen. We want all of our high school students to get the skills to be better leaders and better communicators.”

As for the freshmen that were the guinea pigs for the new first day of school program, the general opinion is one of curiosity surrounding such an engaging initiative.  

“The [Panther] Strong Lessons are nice,” freshman Shane Kirkpatrick Jr said. “I don’t think that it has benefitted me currently but in the future it might as it has allowed me to reunite with people I haven’t talked to in awhile.”